Resting human T lymphocytes do not express receptors for interleukin-2, but expression is rapidly induced by exposure to PHA. After maximal expression 2-3 days after stimulation, a progressive decline in receptor number is observed. Receptor expression can be augmented by reexposure to PHA. In this study we show that activators of protein kinase C including phorbol diester, phospholipase C, and the diacylglycerol congener diC8 also increase IL-2 receptor expression. Moreover, 5-azacytidine, which inhibits cytosine methyltransferase, and hydroxyurea, which inhibits ribonucleotide reductase, also increased receptor number. These studies demonstrate that IL-2 receptor expression can be altered in vitro, and that IL-2 receptor number, in combination with IL-2 secretion, may contribute to the regulation of IL-2-dependent immune responses.