Transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) is synthesized as a membrane-bound precursor protein, pro-TGF-alpha, that is converted to a soluble form by 2 endoproteolytic cleavages. Several factors have been implicated in the regulation of the second rate-limiting step, including protein kinase C (PKC). Earlier results indicated a potential role for the conventional class of PKC isozymes in the observed increase in TGF-alpha in the conditioned media of 2 human colon carcinoma cell lines. The present study addresses the potential role of specific PKC isozymes in this process using sense and anti-sense expression vectors for PKC isozymes. Two human colon carcinoma cell lines, HCT 116 and GEO, were transfected with plasmids, leading to the over-expression of PKC-alpha, -betaI or -betaII; and the secretion of TGF-alpha into the conditioned medium was determined. Over-expression of either PKC-betaI or PKC-betaII in these cell lines enhanced the levels of TGF-alpha in the media 2- to 5-fold. Over-expression of PKC-alpha did not alter the amount of TGF-alpha in the media to a significant extent. Transfection of HCT 116 cells with the anti-sense PKC-betaI cDNA resulted in a reduction in PKC-betaI protein expression. This was accompanied by a decrease in the amount of TGF-alpha in the conditioned media. Our results indicate that modulation of PKC-beta protein levels alters the amount of TGF-alpha found in the conditioned media from these colon carcinoma cells.