The receptors for the second messenger inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) constitute a family of Ca2+ channels responsible for the mobilization of intracellular Ca2+ stores. Three different gene products (types I-III) have been isolated, encoding polypeptides which assemble as large tetrameric structures. Recent molecular studies have advanced our knowledge about the structure, regulation and function of IP3 receptors. For example, several Ca(2+)-binding sites and a Ca(2+)-calmodulin-binding domain have been mapped within the type I IP3 receptor, and studies on purified cerebellar IP3 receptors propose a second Ca(2+)-independent calmodulin-binding domain. In addition, minimal requirements for the binding of immunophilins and the formation of tetramers have been identified. Overexpression of IP3 receptors has provided further clues to the regulation of individual IP3 receptor isoforms present within cells, and the role that they play in the generation of IP3-dependent Ca2+ signals. Inhibition of IP3 receptor function and expression, and analysis of mutant IP3 receptors, suggests that IP3 receptors are involved in such diverse cellular processes as proliferation and apoptosis and are thus, necessary for normal development. Our understanding of the complex spatial and temporal nature of cytosolic Ca2+ increases and the role that these Ca2+ signals play in cell function depend upon our knowledge of the structure and the regulation of IP3 receptors. This review focuses on the molecular properties of these ubiquitous intracellular Ca2+ channels.