Accumulation of cAMP in the human T-cell leukemia cell line Jurkat was stimulated by the adenosine analogue 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA) and by prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Addition of two phorbol esters, PDiBu and TPA, markedly enhanced the NECA-stimulated accumulation of cAMP whereas the PGE2-stimulated cAMP accumulation was substantially reduced. The non-tumor-promoting phorbol ester, 4 alpha-PDD, had no effect on either NECA- or PGE2-stimulated cAMP accumulation. The ability of PDiBu to inhibit the effect of PGE2 and to stimulate the effect of NECA remained in the presence a low concentration of forskolin (0.3 microM), which per se increased both NECA- and PGE2-stimulated cAMP accumulation. Our results suggest that the effect of PK-C-activating drugs on receptor-mediated cAMP accumulation is entirely dependent on which receptor is being stimulated.