Regulation of the 68 kDa carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT) synthesis by (chlorophenylthio) cyclic AMP (cAMP) and insulin was studied in H4IIE cells in culture. Addition of 0.1 mM- or 1.0 mM-(chlorophenylthio) cAMP induced CPT mRNA and rate of transcription 2-4-fold by 15 min, reaching a plateau at 4-6-fold by 30 min. Addition of 5-15 nM-insulin plus 1.0 mM-cAMP suppressed the increases in transcription rate and mRNA levels occurring with cAMP alone. The t( 1/2 ) for CPT mRNA was 70-80 min and was not affected by cAMP. The t( 1/2 ) for CPT protein was 70 min, and was increased to 240 min in the presence of cAMP. The rate of CPT synthesis was also increased in the presence of cAMP. The data indicate that CPT synthesis is increased by cAMP via induction of transcription and subsequent increase in the CPT mRNA. Insulin acts to depress transcription and CPT mRNA. In addition, cAMP prolongs the t( 1/2 ) of CPT.