The influence of the plant product magnolol on neutrophil aggregation has been investigated in the rat. Magnolol inhibited phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-activated rat neutrophil aggregation in a concentration-dependent manner with an IC50 (concentration resulting in 50% inhibition) of 24.2 +/- 1.7 microM. Magnolol suppressed the enzyme activity of neutrophil cytosolic and rat brain protein kinase C (PKC) over the same range of concentrations at which it inhibited the aggregation. Magnolol did not affect PMA-induced cytosolic PKC-alpha and -delta membrane translocation or trypsin-treated rat-brain PKC activity, but attenuated [3H]phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate binding to neutrophil cytosolic PKC. These results suggest that the inhibition of PMA-induced rat neutrophil aggregation by magnolol is probably attributable, at least in part, to the direct suppression of PKC activity through blockade of the regulatory region of PKC.