Activation of mononuclear phagocytes for a variety of functional responses is potentiated by prior exposure to IFN-gamma. Inasmuch as protein kinase C has been suggested to mediate several of these responses, we have examined the effects of IFN-gamma exposure on subsequent accumulation of sn-1,2-diacylglycerol (DAG). Exposure of murine macrophages to IFN-gamma (greater than 4 h) results in an increase in basal DAG as well as potentiating DAG accumulation in response to the macrophage chemoattractant, platelet-activating factor (PAF). An increased DAG accumulation was similarly observed in response to PMA and ionomycin. Our results further indicate that the increased DAG accumulation during activation of macrophages is unlikely to involve alterations in phosphatidylinositol metabolism. PAF-stimulated production of [3H]inositol phosphates was not altered by the prior exposure of macrophages to IFN-gamma. Similarly, IFN-gamma did not potentiate the ability of PAF to cause an increase in cytosolic calcium. Our data indicate that phosphatidylcholine metabolism may be involved in IFN-gamma-regulated DAG accumulation. Exposure of [3H]choline-labeled macrophages to IFN-gamma resulted in an increase in the basal level of aqueous [3H]choline metabolites as well as potentiating the production of [3H]choline in response to PAF, PMA, and ionomycin. Our results thus suggest that the potentiated protein kinase C-mediated responses occurring during macrophage activation may be due to potentiated DAG accumulation independent of potentiated phosphatidylinositol metabolism.