In the human T-cell leukemia line Jurkat, cAMP accumulation stimulated by the adenosine receptor agonist 5'-N-ethylcarboxamido adenosine (NECA) was enhanced by tumour-promoting phorbol esters whereas the prostaglandin receptor-stimulated accumulation of cAMP was antagonized. Phorbol esters did not alter the adenosine or prostaglandin receptor-stimulated accumulation of cAMP in cells in which the phospholipid/Ca2+-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase-C) was down-regulated. cAMP stimulation induced by cholera toxin (CT) was enhanced by phorbol esters by 100-300%. The cAMP production induced by forskolin was never enhanced by more than 50% by 4 beta-phorbol-12,13-dibutyrate (PDBu) and there was no stimulation at all after down-regulation of the adenosine receptor by treatment with NECA. Phorbol ester enhanced the NECA-stimulated accumulation of cAMP, even in the presence of concentrations of forskolin that increased the cAMP accumulation several-fold. From these data we conclude that protein kinase-C can interact with receptors coupled to adenylate cyclase in a stimulatory as well as an inhibitory manner. Moreover, protein kinase-C appears to interact with signal transduction at two levels, one highly receptor-specific and one distal to the receptor.