Two plasminogen activators (PAs): tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA), as well as the type-1 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) are synthesized and secreted by rat astrocytes. Preliminary studies suggest that PA activity plays a role in astrocyte development and differentiation. We have examined the regulation of the PA system by the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and protein kinase C (PKC) in purified rat astrocyte cultures. PKA activity was increased by exposing cultured astrocytes to forskolin or dibutyryl cyclic AMP, whereas PKC activity was stimulated with phorbol-12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Activation of both second-messenger pathways produced a time- and dose-dependent increase in the total PA activity. However, based on SDS-PAGE/zymography we found that forskolin increased t-PA activity and reduced u-PA activity, whereas PMA treatment caused a significant increase in u-PA activity without altering t-PA activity. Reverse zymography analysis revealed that astrocyte PAI-1 activity is decreased by forskolin and increased by PMA. Together, these results demonstrate that the components of the PA system in rat astrocytes are independently and reciprocally regulated by PKA and PKC. Our findings raise the possibility that the plasminogen activator system could be involved in some of the actions of growth factors and/or neuromodulators that modulate PKC or PKA in astrocytes.