To investigate the role of protein kinases in agonist-mediated beta-2 adrenergic receptor regulation, the effects of the protein kinase A and C inhibitor, H-7 [1-(5-isoquinolinylsulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine], on isoproterenol-induced beta adrenoceptor activation and desensitization have been studied in intact human lymphocytes. In the presence of the phosphodiesterase inhibitor, 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine, H-7 potentiated 10(-8) to 10(-4) M isoproterenol or prostaglandin E1-induced cyclic AMP (cAMP) accumulation in a dose-dependent manner. We failed to observe any effect of H-7 on forskolin-induced cAMP accumulation. These effects of H-7 are probably not due to its inhibition of phosphodiesterase. In addition, whereas up to 10(-3) M H-7 had no beta adrenergic receptor blocking effect, preincubation of intact cells with 10(-3.5) M H-7 partially prevented 50 nM isoproterenol-induced beta-2 adrenergic receptor desensitization in terms of decreases in beta adrenoceptor density (maximum binding), isoproterenol-mediated cAMP responsiveness and high affinity receptor binding for agonist. Interestingly, 10(-3.5) M H-7 alone treated cells also showed an up-regulation of cell surface beta receptor density (maximum binding) and increased cAMP responsiveness to isoproterenol stimulation. The mechanisms are unclear. If these effects occur as a result of inhibition by H-7 of protein kinase A and/or C, it may suggest an important role of protein kinase A and/or C in agonist-induced beta-2 adrenergic receptor regulation.