We examined the intracellular Ca(2+) response in primary cultured rat cortical neurons and human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells by Fluo 3 fluorescence imaging analysis. In these two kinds of neuronal cells, honokiol and magnolol increased cytoplasmic free Ca(2+) with a characteristic lag phase. The cytoplasmic free Ca(2+) increase was independent of extracellular Ca(2+), but dependent on activation of phospholipase C and inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP(3)) receptors. These results suggest that honokiol and magnolol increase cytoplasmic free Ca(2+) through a phospholipase C-mediated pathway, and that the release of Ca(2+) from intracellular stores mainly contributes to the increase in cytoplasmic free Ca(2+). Thus, honokiol and magnolol may be involved in a new activation mechanism closely associated with intracellular Ca(2+) mobilization.