- The tumor promoter 12-0-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) affects a wide variety of cellular functions via its binding to protein kinase C (PKC). The TPA molecule contains a diacylglycerol (DAG)-like structure, which may explain its ability to mimic DAG in PKC activation. Teleocidin (TCD) is a different tumor promoter which can compete with TPA in binding to its cell surface receptors even though structurally unrelated to TPA or DAG. Since TCD may use an additional receptor system and/or be distinguished from TPA in its effect on cells, we compared the effects of TPA and TCD on human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). Both tumor promoters preferentially enhanced cell proliferation of sheep erythrocyte-rosetted lymphocytes, which were enriched for T cells. Additionally, TPA and TCD both induced a high density of cell surface receptors for interleukin 2 (IL2) and transferrin, but not synthesis or production of IL2. However, either of the tumor promoters synergized with T cell mitogens to induce high level IL2 production by PBL. In dose response and kinetic studies, matching concentrations of TPA and TCD induced similar effects in PBL. The results thus demonstrate that TPA and TCD are alike in mitogenic capacity, and suggest that structural similarity between the tumor promoter and DAG, the physiological activator of PKC, is not an essential property for promoting tumors or affecting a wide variety of cellular functions.