A long-chain neutral phospholipid, dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, was found to support protein kinase C activation by cis-fatty acid and diacylglycerol (DAG). This effect of phosphatidylcholine (PC) is totally dependent on the presence of cis-fatty acid; PC greatly stimulates the cis-fatty acid-induced protein kinase C activity, but it does not activate protein kinase C at all, even in the presence of DAG, if cis-fatty acid is absent. DAG, however, plays a modulatory role in the presence of Ca2+; it further enhances the PC-potentiated cis-fatty acid activation of protein kinase C. Although the activities of all three protein kinase C subtypes tested (types I, II and III) are supported by this PC mechanism, type III is most sensitive to the DAG effect, and it is activated synergistically by cis-fatty acid and DAG. The potency of PC to support the synergistic activation of this subtype is equivalent to that of phosphatidylserine (PS). There are several differences, however, between PC- and PS-supported synergism observed in type III protein kinase C: (1) Ca2+-sensitivity is different; PC requires higher concentrations of Ca2+ (10-20μM-Ca2+) than those required for PS (micromolar Ca2+); (2) PC/cis-fatty acid/DAG-induced autophosphorylation of protein kinase C subtypes (types I, II and III) is very weak, whereas PS/cis-fatty acid/DAG strongly stimulate autophosphorylation of these subtypes under the conditions at which both PC and PS systems fully activate the protein kinase C in terms of histone phosphorylation. These observations suggest that a neutral phospholipid such as PC may also participate in the activation and differential regulation of protein kinase C.