In cells transfected to express wild-type PDE4A4 cAMP phosphodiesterase (PDE), the PDE4 selective inhibitor rolipram caused PDE4A4 to relocalise so as to form accretion foci. This process was followed in detail in living cells using a PDE4A4 chimera formed with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). The same pattern of behaviour was also seen in chimeras of PDE4A4 formed with various proteins and peptides, including LimK, RhoC, FRB and the V5-6His tag. Maximal PDE4A4 foci formation, occurred over a period of about 10 h, was dose-dependent on rolipram and was reversible upon washout of rolipram. Inhibition of protein synthesis, using cycloheximide, but not PKA activity with H89, inhibited foci generation. Foci formation was elicited by Ro20-1724 and RS25344 but not by either Ariflo or RP73401, showing that not all PDE4 selective inhibitors had this effect. Ariflo and RP73401 dose-dependently antagonised rolipram-induced foci formation and dispersed rolipram pre-formed foci as did the adenylyl cyclase activator, forskolin. Foci formation showed specificity for PDE4A4 and its rodent homologue, PDE4A5, as it was not triggered in living cells expressing the PDE4B2, PDE4C2, PDE4D3 and PDE4D5 isoforms as GFP chimeras. Altered foci formation was seen in the Deltab-LR2-PDE4A4 construct, which deleted a region within LRZ, showing that appropriate linkage between the N-terminal portion of PDE4A4 and the catalytic unit of PDE4A4 was needed for foci formation. Certain single point mutations within the PDE4A4 catalytic site (His505Asn, His506Asn and Val475Asp) were shown to ablate foci formation but still allow rolipram inhibition of PDE4A4 catalytic activity. We suggest that the binding of certain, but not all, PDE4 selective inhibitors to PDE4A4 induces a conformational change in this isoform by 'inside-out' signalling that causes it to redistribute in the cell. Displacing foci-forming inhibitors with either cAMP or inhibitors that do not form foci can antagonise this effect. Specificity of this effect for PDE4A4 and its homologue PDE4A5 suggests that interplay between the catalytic site and the unique N-terminal region of these isoforms is required. Thus, certain PDE4 selective inhibitors may exert effects on PDE4A4 that extend beyond simple catalytic inhibition. These require protein synthesis and may lead to redistribution of PDE4A4 and any associated proteins. Foci formation of PDE4A4 may be of use in probing for conformational changes in this isoform and for sub-categorising PDE4 selective inhibitors.