Thrombin, 1-oleoyl-2-acetyl-rac-glycerol (OAG), cis- or trans-octadecadienoic acids (linoleic and linolelaidic acid) and the synergistic combination of octadecadienoic acids plus OAG lead to the activation of gel-filtered human platelets, i.e. aggregation via protein kinase C (PKC). Platelet activation by thrombin was only slightly suppressed by polymyxin B, 1-(5-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine (H-7) or staurosporine, all being potent inhibitors of PKC in vitro. The OAG-induced aggregation, however, was strongly inhibited by H-7 or staurosporine but not by polymyxin B. In contrast, octadecadienoic acid-induced aggregation was substantially inhibited only by polymyxin B. Synergistic activation by OAG plus octadecadienoic acids was strongly suppressed by all three PKC inhibitors. Our results indicate (1) that the ability of various compounds to inhibit PKC in vitro does not correlate with their inhibitory effects in intact cells and (2) that platelet activation induced by various PKC activators exhibits differential PKC-inhibitor sensitivity.