We have previously shown that protein kinase C (PKC)-epsilon, nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are essential signaling elements in ischemic preconditioning. In the present study, we examined whether activation of PKCepsilon affects the activation of NF-kappaB in cardiac myocytes and whether MAPKs are mediators of this signaling event. Activation of PKCepsilon (+108% above control) in adult rabbit cardiomyocytes to a degree that has been previously shown to protect myocytes against hypoxic injury increased the DNA-binding activity of NF-kappaB (+164%) and activator protein (AP)-1 (+127%) but not that of Elk-1. Activation of PKCeta did not have an effect on these transcription factors. Activation of PKCepsilon also enhanced the phosphorylation activities of the p44/p42 MAPKs and the p54/p46 c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinases (JNKs). PKCepsilon-induced activation of NF-kappaB and AP-1 was completely abolished by inhibition of the p44/p42 MAPK pathway with PD98059 and by inhibition of the p54/p46 JNK pathway with a dominant negative mutant of MAPK kinase-4, indicating that both signaling pathways are necessary. Taken together, these data identify NF-kappaB and AP-1 as downstream targets of PKCepsilon, thereby establishing a molecular link between activation of PKCepsilon and activation of NF-kappaB and AP-1 in cardiomyocytes. The results further demonstrate that both the p44/p42 MAPK and the p54/p46 JNK signaling pathways are essential mediators of this event.