Although the hormone-stimulated synthesis of 3-phosphorylated inositol lipids is known to form an intracellular signalling system, there is no consensus on the crucial receptor-regulated event in this pathway and it is still not clear which of the intermediates represent potential output signals. We show here that the key step in the synthesis of 3-phosphorylated inositol lipids in 3T3 cells stimulated by platelet-derived growth factor is the activation of a phosphatidylinositol(4,5)-bisphosphate (3)-hydroxy (PtdIns(4,5)P2 3-OH) kinase. A similar conclusion has been applied to explain the actions of formyl-Met-Leu-Phe on neutrophils, and it may be that receptors that couple through intrinsic tyrosine kinases or through G proteins stimulate the same step in 3-phosphorylated inositol lipid metabolism. The close parallel between these two mechanisms for the activation of PtdIns(4,5)P2 3-OH kinase and those described for the activation of another key signalling enzyme, phospholipase C (ref. 7), focuses attention on the product of the PtdIns(4,5)P2 3-OH kinase, PtdIns(3,4,5)P3, as a possible new second messenger.