In the murine pre-B lymphoid cell line Baf3, the presence of IL-3 is required for the formation of membrane ruffles that intensely stain for actin and are responsible for the elongated cell phenotype. Withdrawal of IL-3 dissolves ruffled protrusions and converts the cell phenotype to round. Flow cytometric analysis of the cell shape showed that an inactive analog of Rac1 but not inactive RhoA or inactive cdc42 rounds the cells in the presence of IL-3. Constitutively activated Rac1 restores the elongated cell phenotype to IL-3-starved cells. We conclude that the activity of Rac1 is necessary and sufficient for the IL-3-induced assembly of membrane ruffles. Similar to the IL-3 withdrawal, phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) dissolves actin-formed membrane ruffles and rounds the cells in the presence of IL-3. Flow cytometric analysis of the cell shape demonstrated that in the presence of IL-3 the PMA-induced cell rounding cannot be abolished by constitutively active Rac1 but can be imitated by inactive Rac1. These data indicate that PMA disrupts the IL-3 pathway downstream of Rac1. Cells rounded by PMA return to the elongated phenotype concomitantly with PKC depletion. PMA-induced cell rounding can be reversed by the PKC-specific inhibitor GF109203X. Experiments with overexpression in Baf3 of individual PKC isoforms and a dominant negative PKC-delta indicate that activation of PKC-delta but not other PKC isoforms is responsible for disruption of membrane ruffles.