The effect of various detergents on polyphosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C activity in highly purified wheat root plasma membrane vesicles was examined. The plasma membrane-bound enzyme was solubilized in octylglucoside and purified 25-fold by hydroxylapatite and ion-exchange chromatography. The purified enzyme catalyzed the hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate (PIP) and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) with specific activities of 5 and 10 mumol/min per mg protein, respectively. Phosphatidylinositol (PI) was not a substrate. Optimum activity was between pH 6-7 (PIP) and pH 6-6.5 (PIP2). The enzyme was dependent on micromolar concentrations of Ca2+ for activity, and millimolar Mg2+ further increased the activity. Other divalent cations (4 mM Ca2+, Mn2+ and Co2+) inhibited (PIP2 as substrate) or enhanced (PIP as substrate) phospholipase C activity.