The expression of the melatonin receptor is positively regulated by cAMP and negatively regulated by melatonin in the ovine pars tuberalis (PT). Furthermore, when PT cells are dispersed in primary culture, both messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels spontaneously increase through a process that can be blocked by melatonin, but does not involve cAMP. This suggests that other second messengers may be regulated by melatonin, which, in turn, regulates melatonin receptor mRNA and protein levels. In this study using ribonuclease protection assays, ligand binding, protein kinase C (PKC), and cAMP analysis, we demonstrate that the levels of Mel 1a mRNA and protein expression in ovine PT are reduced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate in a cAMP-independent process. This is indicative of an inhibitory role for PKC in receptor regulation. Melatonin, however, does not act through PKC activation to reduce Mel 1a mRNA or protein levels. Basal PKC activity in PT cells can be inhibited by the PKC inhibitor Ro 31-8220, and this suggests that basal PKC activity may suppress Mel 1a receptor expression. Paradoxically, however, Ro 31-8220 also inhibits melatonin receptor mRNA and protein levels in PT cells by a cAMP-independent mechanism. This suggests that other undefined pathways must play an important role in the physiological self-regulation of Mel 1a receptor expression by melatonin.