Several phorbol esters are potent activators of protein kinase C. They down-regulate gap junctional intercellular communication and induce phosphorylation of connexin43, but the sensitivity and extent of responses vary much between systems. We asked whether the total protein kinase C enzyme activity or the protein kinase C isoenzyme constitution was of importance for such variations. Some fibroblastic culture systems were compared. It was concluded that the total protein kinase C enzyme activity did not determine the sensitivity to phorbol esters. Furthermore, the use of isotype-specific inhibitors of protein kinase C indicated that protein kinase C alpha, delta, and epsilon may be involved to different extents in different fibroblastic systems in the response to phorbol esters.