In previous studies we demonstrated that parietal cell stimulation with gastrin and carbamoylcholine (carbachol) is accompanied by increased turnover of membrane inositol phospholipids. We conducted the present studies to examine whether membrane-associated protein kinase C activity is enhanced as a consequence of these events and to explore the role of this enzyme in regulating parietal cell function. We observed that carbachol and gastrin dose dependently increased membrane-associated protein kinase C activity while histamine did not. Furthermore, compounds such as phorbol esters and diacylglycerol, which are known to be direct stimulants of protein kinase C activity, also stimulated parietal cell aminopyrine uptake. In contrast, the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate and the synthetic diacylglycerol 1-oleoyl-2-acetyl-sn-glycerol inhibited both aminopyrine uptake and membrane inositol phospholipid turnover in parietal cells induced by carbachol and gastrin. The inhibitory effect appeared to result from reduction in the quantity of muscarinic and gastrin receptors without alterations in their specific affinities. These data suggest that protein kinase C mediates stimulation of parietal cells by gastrin and carbachol but also activates an autoregulatory mechanism via downregulation of muscarinic and gastrin receptors.