We have investigated the possibility that protein kinase A (PKA) may play a part in regulating the activity of human and mouse hair follicles in whole organ culture. Human hair follicles were isolated from facial skin by microdissection, and hair follicle and hair fibre length measurements were made daily during suspension culture. Incubation of human hair follicles with dibutyryl-cAMP (db-cAMP) resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of total cumulative follicle growth (IC50 = 100 μmol/L, 85% inhibition at 1 mmol/L). db-cAMP (0.5 mmol/L) also caused a rapid, partial inhibition of follicular DNA synthesis (20.3% inhibition at 6 h, 48.0% inhibition at 24 h). Human hair follicle growth was inhibited by the phosphodiesterase inhibitors 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine and Ro 20-1724, and by the adenylate cyclase activator, forskolin. In addition, db-cAMP inhibited DNA synthesis in organ cultures of whisker follicles isolated from neonatal mice by microdissection. Taken together, these findings indicate that agents which increase cAMP levels are potent inhibitors of human and mouse hair follicle growth, and suggest that PKA may play a part in the regulation of hair follicle activity in vivo.