Protein kinase C (PKC) activity and translocation in response to the phorbol ester, phorbol 12-myristate, 13-acetate (PMA), serotonin (5-HT) and thrombin was assessed in human platelets. Stimulation with PMA and 5-HT for 10 minutes or thrombin for 1 minute elicited platelet PKC translocation from cytosol to membrane. The catecholamines, norepinephrine or epinephrine at 10 microM concentrations did not induce redistribution of platelet PKC. Serotonin (0.5-100 microM) and the specific 5-HT2 receptor agonist, 1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl)-2-aminopropane (DOI) (10-100 microM) but not the 5-HT1A or 5-HT1B agonists, (+/-) 8-hydroxy-dipropylamino-tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) or 5-methoxy-3-3-(1,2,3,6-tetrahydro-4-pyridin) 1H-indole succinate (RU 24969) induced dose-dependent PKC translocations. Serotonin-evoked PKC translocation was blocked by selective 5-HT2 receptor antagonists, ketanserin and spiroperidol. These results suggest that, in human platelets, PMA, thrombin and 5-HT can elicit PKC translocation from cytosol to membrane. Serotonin-induced PKC translocation in platelets is mediated via 5-HT2 receptors.