Protein kinase C (PKC), a major cellular receptor for tumor-promoting phorbol esters and diacylglycerols (DGs), appears to be involved in a variety of cellular functions, although its activation mechanism in vivo is not yet fully understood. To evaluate the signaling pathways involved in the activation of PKC epsilon upon stimulation by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor (PDGFR), we used a series of PDGFR "add-back" mutants. Activation of a PDGFR mutant (Y40/51) that binds and activates phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) caused translocation of PKC epsilon from the cytosol to the membrane in response to PDGF. A PDGFR mutant (Y1021) that binds and activates phospholipase C gamma (PLC gamma), but not PI 3-kinase, also caused the PDGF-dependent translocation of PKC epsilon. The translocation of PKC epsilon upon stimulation of PDGFR (Y40/51) was inhibited by wortmannin, an inhibitor of PI 3-kinase. Activation of PKC epsilon was further confirmed in terms of PKC epsilon-dependent expression of a phorbol 12-tetradecanoate 13-acetate response element (TRE)-luciferase reporter. Further, purified PKC epsilon was activated in vitro by either DG or synthetic phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate. These results clearly demonstrate that PKC epsilon is activated through redundant and independent signaling pathways which most likely involve PLC gamma or PI 3-kinase in vivo and that PKC epsilon is one of the downstream mediators of PI 3-kinase whose downstream targets remain to be identified.