- Of the recently identified protein kinase C (PKC) types of group B (delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, PKC-L), only PKC-epsilon has been characterized in great detail. In order to compare the regulatory and catalytic properties of these new kinases, we have expressed PKC-delta, -epsilon, -zeta and PKC-L as recombinant proteins from their cDNAs in insect cells via baculovirus vectors and in mammalian COS-1 cells. After expression in insect cells, phorbol ester binding and kinase activities of the group B enzymes were compared with the respective activities of a member of group A, PKC-gamma. Although PKC-delta and PKC-L(eta) bind phorbol ester to a similar or the same extent as PKC-gamma, they show a distinctively different behaviour towards conventional PKC substrates such as histone, myelin basic protein, protamine and protamine sulphate, suggesting either that phorbol esters are not able to fully activate these enzymes or that their substrate specificities are very different from those of the group A enzymes. PKC-zeta, a polypeptide of 80 kDa, does not bind phorbol ester and does not phosphorylate these substrates to a significant extent. Consistent with their ability to bind phorbol ester, recombinant PKC-delta and PKC-epsilon are down-regulated in COS cells by prolonged treatment with phorbol ester, whereas PKC-zeta protein levels remain unaltered.