The induction of T cell proliferation requires signals from the TCR and a co-receptor molecule, such as CD28, that activate parallel and partially cross-reactive signaling pathways. These pathways are disrupted by agonists that utilize adenylate cyclase and cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA). We found that the adenylate cyclase activator, forskolin, inhibits anti-CD3-induced shift in Lck electrophoretic mobility, suggesting an intervention at the TCR-coupled phosphoinositide turnover that precedes the activation of PKC. The shift of Lck following direct PKC activation by 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate, which bypasses early receptor-triggered biochemical events, is insensitive to forskolin. Nevertheless, forskolin also inhibits PKC downstream events, such as c-jun expression, which is critical for the activation process of T cells. To further analyze potential cross points between positively and negatively regulating signaling pathways in T cells, we tested the effects of activators of the adenylate cyclase or PKA on two parallel mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways mediated by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase. Using a PKC-specific inhibitor, GF109203X, or PKC-depleted T cells, we found that a large part of the anti-CD3-induced ERK activation is PKC dependent. Both PKC-dependent and -independent activation of ERK were sensitive to inhibition by forskolin or a cell-permeable cAMP analogue, dbcAMP. Furthermore, the effect of 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate and ionomycin, which synergized to fully activate c-Jun N-terminal kinase, was also sensitive to inhibition by forskolin. Our results suggest that PKA inhibits T cell activation by interfering with multiple events along the two signaling pathways operating downstream of the TCR and the CD28 co-receptor molecules.