When HL-60 cells were stimulated with histamine, a significant differentiation of the cells toward neutrophils was elicited. Histamine increased phagocytic activity, but it reduced myeloperoxidase activity of HL-60 cells. Histamine-induced differentiation in HL-60 cells was inhibited not only by H2 antagonists, such as cimetidine, ranitidine and famotidine, but also by an inhibitor of protein kinase A (A kinase), KT-5720. Histamine increased the cAMP level and A kinase activity in HL-60 cells; both increases preceded the cell differentiation. Histamine also enhanced phosphorylation of a 160 kD protein in HL-60 cells, while H2 antagonists and KT-5720 inhibited this phosphorylation. The results of the present study indicate that an activation of A kinase via H2 receptor stimulation may cause the phosphorylation of a 160 kD protein and that this phosphorylation is probably involved in the process leading to differentiation of HL-60 cells.