After a single injection of diethylnitrosamine (200 mg/kg), there was a rapid increase in the activity ratio of hepatic cyclic adenosine 3':5'-monophosphate (cyclic AMP)-dependent protein kinase (within 1 hr) followed by the induction of ornithine decarboxylase which was detectable by 3 hr. Both the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase activity ratio and the activity of ornithine decarboxylase were significantly elevated above controls for 7 days following the administration of diethylnitrosamine. A single noncarcinogenic dose of diethylnitrosamine (25 mg/kg) did not increase the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase activity ratio or induce ornithine decarboxylase activity at 24 hr postadministration. However, serial administration of diethylnitrosamine (25 mg/kg) for 4 or 7 days resulted in an increased activity ratio of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase and increased ornithine decarboxylase activity. This is the first report of a prolonged increase in both the activity ratio of hepatic cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase and the activity of ornithine decarboxylase in response to a single carcinogenic dose of diethylnitrosamine.