As shown previously, native or recombinant (r) human platelet factor 4 (PF4) alleviates the suppression induced by Con A or dimaprit, a histamine type 2 receptor (H2-R) agonist, in a murine system. The effect of rPF4 on human peripheral blood cells has now been studied, using as a model pokeweed mitogen (PWM)-induced, T-cell-mediated suppression of Ig-secreting cell (ISC) formation by Staphylococcus aureus and rIL-2 activated B cells. PWM, but not phytohemagglutinin (PHA), induced inhibitory activity in mitomycin-treated CD8+ T cells, but not unfractionated or CD4+ T cells, for both ISC formation and B cell proliferation. rPF4 and its C-terminal tridecapeptide alleviated the suppressive effect of PWM-activated CD8+ T cells on ISC production but not on proliferation. Heparin did not prevent this immunoregulatory activity of PF4. Neutralizing antibody to TGF-beta, but not to IFN-gamma or TNF-alpha, alleviated the suppression of ISC formation in some of the experiments. The H2-R appeared to play a part in inducing suppression, because the H2-R antagonist, cimetidine, prevented the PWM-induced suppression of ISC production. Furthermore, dimaprit induced suppression of ISC formation when added instead of PWM at the start of culture. Incubation of CD8+ T cells with dimaprit for only 3 hr prior to coculture with S. aureus + IL-2 activated B cells decreased the ISC response. This suppression was also alleviated by addition of rPF4 to the coculture. Similar to dimaprit, known cAMP upregulating agents, such as forskolin, dibutyryl cAMP, and cAMP analog, all induced this immunoregulatory activity in T cells. Moreover, the effect of dimaprit was prevented by the specific protein kinase A inhibitor, HA1004, suggesting strongly that upregulation of cAMP played a role in the H2-R-mediated effect. Cell contact appeared to be necessary, since supernatants from dimaprit or PWM activated T cells failed to suppress ISC production. We suggest that the known ability of PF4 to prevent TGF-beta-mediated effects on endothelial and other target cells may be involved in the alleviating effect of PF4 on the cell-contact-dependent CD8+ T-cell-mediated B cell suppression.