To investigate the regulation of microtubule (MT)-based vesicle transport and the interphase MT array in hepatocytes, we have used okadaic acid (OKA) and microcystin (MCYST), two toxins that inhibit serine-threonine protein phosphatases (PP) 1 and 2A, to alter cellular phosphorylation. Video-enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy analysis revealed that both toxins inhibited the frequency, velocity, and run length of MT-dependent vesicle movements dose dependently between 50 and 500 nM. At our maximum dose of 500 nM, both toxins significantly decreased PP2A activity (OKA to 45 +/- 12% and MCYST to 57 +/- 2%), whereas PP1 was inhibited only by MCYST. Because no additional effects on vesicle movements were caused by MCYST over the changes caused by OKA, these data implicate PP2A in the regulation of MT-dependent vesicle movement. To understand whether the changes in parameters of vesicle movements were due to changes in the MT array, the effects of these toxins on MT distribution were examined by immunofluorescence microscopy. Although lower doses of OKA produced no effects, treatment with 500 nM OKA altered MT organization and also caused fragmentation and loss of acetylated (stable) MTs. In contrast, MCYST concentrations up to 500 nM elicited no changes in MT organization in general or in the acetylated (stable) array. From these findings we conclude that inhibition of MT-dependent vesicle movement by the PP inhibitors, MCYST and OKA, in hepatocytes cannot result from changes or disruption in the MT array. Because OKA (an inhibitor of PP2A only in our system) at high doses caused loss of stable MTs, whereas MCYST (an inhibitor of both PP1 and PP2A) did not, we conclude that the control of the preservation of the stable MT array in hepatocytes is complex. Stable MTs require active PP2A for maintenance, but the disruption of the array through inhibition of PP2A can be prevented if PP1 is also inhibited, suggesting that the relative degree of phosphorylation of multiple cellular components is the determinant of MT stability.