T cells from patients with lupus or treated with the lupus-inducing drug hydralazine have defective ERK phosphorylation. The reason for the impaired signal transduction is unknown but important to elucidate, because decreased T cell ERK pathway signaling causes a lupus-like disease in animal models by decreasing DNA methyltransferase expression, leading to DNA hypomethylation and overexpression of methylation-sensitive genes with subsequent autoreactivity and autoimmunity. We therefore analyzed the PMA stimulated ERK pathway phosphorylation cascade in CD4(+) T cells from patients with lupus and in hydralazine-treated cells. The defect in these cells localized to protein kinase C (PKC)delta. Pharmacologic inhibition of PKCdelta or transfection with a dominant negative PKCdelta mutant caused demethylation of the TNFSF7 (CD70) promoter and CD70 overexpression similar to lupus and hydralazine-treated T cells. These results suggest that defective T cell PKCdelta activation may contribute to the development of idiopathic and hydralazine-induced lupus through effects on T cell DNA methylation.