A novel, bis-indolylmaleimide, Ro 31-8425, bearing a conformationally restricted side chain, inhibits protein kinase C isolated from rat brain and human neutrophils with a high degree of selectivity over cAMP-dependent kinase and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase. It also inhibits phorbol ester-induced intracellular events known to be mediated by protein kinase C (p47 phosphorylation in intact platelets, CD3 and CD4 down-regulation in T-cells). Ro 31-8425 inhibited superoxide generation in human neutrophils activated by both receptor stimuli (formyl-methionyl-leucylphenylalanine, opsonized zymosan, IgG and heat aggregated IgG) and post-receptor stimuli (1,2-dioctanoylglycerol and fluoride). The compound also blocked antigen driven, but not IL-2 induced, T-cell proliferation. These results support a central role for protein kinase C in the activation of the respiratory burst and antigen-driven T-cell proliferation.