Leaflet movements of Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merr. depend in part upon circadian-rhythmic, light-regulated K+ fluxes across the plasma membranes of extensor and flexor cells in opposing regions of the leaf-moving organ, the pulvinus. We previously showed that blue light appears to close open K+ channels in flexor protoplasts during the dark period (subjective night) (Kim et al., 1992, Plant Physiol 99; 1532-1539). In contrast, transfer to darkness apparently closes open K+ channels in extensor protoplasts during the light period (subjective day) (Kim et al., 1993, Science 260; 960-962). We now report that both these channel-closing stimuli increase inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate [Ins(1,4,5)P3] levels in the appropriate protoplasts. If extensor cells are given a pulse of red light followed by transfer to darkness, channels still apparently close (Kim et al., 1993) but changes in Ins(1,4,5)P3 levels are complex with an initial decrease under red light followed by accumulation. Neomycin, an inhibitor of polyphosphoinositide hydrolysis, inhibits both blue-light-induced Ins(1,4,5)P3 production and K(+)-channel closure in flexor protoplasts and both dark-induced Ins(1,4,5)P3 production and K+ channel closure in extensor protoplasts. The G-protein activator, mastoparan, mimics blue light and darkness in that it both increases Ins(1,4,5)P3 levels and closes K+ channels in the appropriate cell type at the appropriate time. These results indicate that phospholipase C-catalyzed hydrolysis of phosphoinositides, possibly activated by a G protein, is an early step in the signal-transduction pathway by which blue light and darkness close K+ channels in S. saman pulvinar cells.