Epidermal growth factor (EGF) rapidly stimulates the release of arachidonic acid in A549 cells by a mechanism that is sensitive to pertussis toxin . We show that EGF treatment of A549 cells stimulates phosphorylation of cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) through a mechanism that is similarly inhibited by pertussis toxin. The level of cPLA2 expression is, apparently, not changed during this period. Pretreatment of cells with dexamethasone (10-100 nM) for 3 hr prevents this activation of cPLA2 by EFG, without changing the level of cPLA21 expression. The effect of dexamethasone is reversed in the presence of the neutralizing antilipocortin Mab 1A but not by the nonneutralizing antilipocortin 1 control Mab 1B. This strongly suggests that lipocortin 1 mediates the effect of dexamethasone by inhibiting activation of cPLA2. This concept is supported by the fact that a peptide Lc13-25 (10-200 micrograms/mL), derived from the N-terminus of lipocortin 1, also inhibits activation of cPLA2 by EGF in these cells.