We have previously shown that the protein kinase C (PKC) system plays a pivotal role in regulation of proliferation and differentiation of the human keratinocyte line HaCaT which is often used to assess processes of immortalization, transformation, and tumorigenesis in human skin. In this paper, using pharmacological and molecular biology approaches, we investigated the isoform-specific roles of certain PKC isoenzymes (conventional cPKCalpha and beta; novel nPKCdelta and epsilon) in the regulation of various keratinocyte functions. cPKCalpha and nPKCdelta stimulated cellular differentiation and increased susceptibility of cells to actions of inducers of apoptosis, and they markedly inhibited cellular proliferation and tumor growth in immunodeficient mice. In marked contrast, cPKCbeta and nPKCepsilon increased both in vitro and in vivo growth of cells and inhibited differentiation and apoptosis. Our data present clear evidence for the specific, antagonistic roles of certain cPKC and nPKC isoforms in regulating the above processes in human HaCaT keratinocytes.