The phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3-kinases) are a ubiquitously expressed enzyme family that, through the generation of phospholipid second messengers, play a key role in the regulation of many cellular processes. These include motility, proliferation and survival, and carbohydrate metabolism. Members of the PI3-kinase family and related kinases, their mechanism of activation and the cellular events that they influence are described in this review. As knowledge of their involvement in disease processes increases, the PI3-kinases appear to be an increasingly attractive target for drug development, particularly in the fields of cancer and other proliferative diseases, and in the treatment of inflammatory and immunological conditions. Evidence of the functional specialization of PI3-kinase isoforms suggests that selective inhibition with acceptable toxicity might be possible.