WEHI-231, CH33, and CH31 are B-cell lymphomas that are inhibited in their growth by crosslinking of surface Ig receptors during early G1. This "negative signaling" process can be prevented or reversed under certain conditions. In the present paper, we use a cell synchronization procedure to demonstrate that activation of protein kinase C (PKC) is not involved in the negative signal for growth, but rather that PKC activation prevents growth inhibition when present early in the cell cycle. Indeed, the prevention of negative signaling is only accomplished by active phorbol esters. Moreover, phorbol esters and a calcium ionophore fail to deliver a negative signal under conditions in which anti-Ig can significantly prevent cell cycle progression into S phase, thereby ruling out synergy between PKC and calcium in growth inhibition. Whether phorbol esters reverse negative signaling by preventing internalization of the immune complex or phosphorylation of a critical intracellular protein is discussed.