Changes in protein kinase C (PKC) (calcium- and phospholipid-dependent protein kinase) activity in rat heart during different cardiodynamic phases of sepsis were studied in an attempt to understand the pathophysiology of altered myocardial function during sepsis. Sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and puncture. Experiments were divided into three groups: control, early sepsis, and late sepsis. Early and late sepsis refers to those animals sacrificed at 9 and 18 h, respectively, after cecal ligation and puncture. Cardiac PKC was extracted and partially purified by ammonium sulfate fractionation and diethylaminoethyl-cellulose chromatography. PKC activity was assayed on the basis of the rate of incorporation of 32P from [γ-32P]adenosine triphosphate into histone. The results show that during early sepsis, cytosolic PKC activity was increased by 42–73%, whereas membrane associated PKC activity was unchanged. During late sepsis, both cytosolic and membrane associated PKC activities remained unchanged. Kinetic analysis of the data on cytosolic PKC during the early phase of sepsis reveals that the Vmax (maximal velocity) values for Ca2+, phosphatidylserine, and diacylglycerol were increased by 58, 42, and 50%, respectively, with no changes in their Km (substrate concentration required for half-maximal enzyme activity) values. These data indicate that cytosolic PKC activity was activated in rat heart during the early hyperdynamic phase of sepsis. Because PKC mediated phosphorylation plays an important role in regulating myocardial contractility, an activation in cytosolic PKC may contribute to the development of a hypercardiodynamic state during the early phase of sepsis.