Okadaic acid (2 nM) inhibited by 80-90% the protein phosphatase activities in diluted extracts of rat liver, human fibroblasts, and Xenopus eggs acting on three substrates (high mobility group protein-I(Y), caldesmon and histone H1) phosphorylated by a cyclin-dependent protein kinase (CDK) suggesting that a type-2A phosphatase was responsible for dephosphorylating each protein. This result was confirmed by anion exchange chromatography of rat liver and Xenopus extracts, which demonstrated that the phosphatases acting on these substrates coeluted with the two major species of protein phosphatase 2A, termed PP2A1 and PP2A2. When matched for activity toward glycogen phosphorylase, PP2A1 was five- to sevenfold more active than PP2A2 and 35- fold to 70-fold more active than the free catalytic subunit (PP2A(C)) toward the three CDK-labeled substrates. Protein phosphatases 1, 2B, and 2C accounted for a negligible proportion of the activity toward each substrate under the assay conditions examined. The results suggest that PP2A1 is the phosphatase that dephosphorylates a number of CDK substrates in vivo and indicate that the A and B subunits that are associated with PP2A(C) in PP2A1 accelerate the dephosphorylation of CDK substrates, while suppressing the dephosphorylation of most other proteins. The possibility that PP2A1 activity is regulated during the cell cycle is discussed.