Theophylline is an old drug experiencing a renaissance owing to its beneficial antiinflammatory effects in chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Multiple modes of antiinflammatory action have been reported, including inhibition of the enzymes that degrade cAMP-phosphodiesterase (PDE). Using primary cultures of airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells, we recently revealed that PDE4 inhibitors can potentiate the antiinflammatory action of β2-agonists by augmenting cAMP-dependent expression of the phosphatase that deactivates mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-MAPK phosphatase (MKP)-1. Therefore, the aim of this study was to address whether theophylline repressed cytokine production in a similar, PDE-dependent, MKP-1-mediated manner. Notably, theophylline did not potentiate cAMP release from ASM cells treated with the long-acting β2-agonist formoterol. Moreover, theophylline (0.1-10 μM) did not increase formoterol-induced MKP-1 messenger RNA expression nor protein up-regulation, consistent with the lack of cAMP generation. However, theophylline (at 10 μM) was antiinflammatory and repressed secretion of the neutrophil chemoattractant cytokine IL-8, which is produced in response to TNF-α. Because theophylline's effects were independent of PDE4 inhibition or antiinflammatory MKP-1, we then wished to elucidate the novel mechanisms responsible. We investigated the impact of theophylline on protein phosphatase (PP) 2A, a master controller of multiple inflammatory signaling pathways, and show that theophylline increases TNF-α-induced PP2A activity in ASM cells. Confirmatory results were obtained in A549 lung epithelial cells. PP2A activators have beneficial effects in ex vivo and in vivo models of respiratory disease. Thus, our study is the first to link theophylline with PP2A activation as a novel mechanism to control respiratory inflammation.