The Drosophila mutant turnip was initially isolated based on poor learning performance (Quinn, W.G., Sziber, P.P., and Booker, R. (1979) Nature 277, 212-214). Here we show that turnip is dramatically reduced in protein kinase C (PKC) activity. In addition, turnip flies are deficient in phosphorylation of a 76-kDa head membrane protein (hereafter pp76) which is a major substrate for protein kinase C in homogenates of wild-type flies. Reduced PKC activity, defective pp76 phosphorylation, and most of turnip's learning deficiency co-map genetically to a region on the X-chromosome, 18A5-18D1-2, spanned by the deletion Df(1)JA27. Apparently turnip+ is not a structural gene for PKC because Drosophila PKC genes map elsewhere in the genome. Our results suggest that turnip gene product is required for activation of PKC and that PKC plays a role in associative learning in Drosophila.