Protein kinase C theta (PKCtheta) is a novel Ca(2+)-independent PKC isoform, which is selectively expressed in skeletal muscle and hematopoietic cells, especially T cells. In T cells, it colocalizes with the T cell antigen receptor (TCR).CD3 complex in antigen-stimulated T cells and is involved in the transcriptional activation of the interleukin-2 gene. In the present study, we report that PKCtheta is tyrosine phosphorylated in Jurkat T cells upon TCR.CD3 activation. The Src family protein-tyrosine kinase, Lck, was critical in TCR-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of PKCtheta. Lck phosphorylated and was associated with the regulatory domain of PKCtheta both in vitro and in intact cells. This association was constitutive, but it was enhanced by T cell activation, with both Src-homology 2 and Src-homology 3 domains of Lck contributing to it. Tyrosine 90 (Tyr-90) in the regulatory domain of PKCtheta was identified as the major phosphorylation site by Lck. A constitutively active mutant of PKCtheta (A148E) could enhance proliferation of Jurkat T cells and synergized with ionomycin to induce nuclear factor of T cells activity. However, mutation of Tyr-90 into phenylalanine markedly reduced (or abolished) these activities. These results suggest that Lck plays an important role in tyrosine phosphorylation of PKCtheta, which may in turn modulate the physiological functions of PKCtheta during TCR-induced T cell activation.