Light responses in photoreceptor cells are mediated by the action of the G protein transducin (G(t)) on the effector enzyme cGMP phosphodiesterase (PDE6) at the surface of disk membranes. The enzymatic components needed for phosphoinositide-based signaling are known to be present in rod cells, but it has remained uncertain what role phosphoinositides play in vertebrate phototransduction. Reconstitution of PDE6 and activated G(alphat), on the surface of large unilamellar vesicles containing d-myo-phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P(2)), stimulated PDE activity nearly 4-fold above the level observed with membranes containing no phosphoinositides, whereas G protein-independent activation by trypsin was unaffected by the presence of phosphoinositides. PDE activity was similarly stimulated by d-myo-phosphatidylinositol-3,4-bisphosphate and d-myo-phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PI(4)P), but much less by d-myo-phosphatidylinositol-5-phosphate (PI(5)P) or d-myo-phosphatidylinositol-3,5-bisphosphate. Incubation of rod outer segment membranes with phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C decreased G protein-stimulated activation of endogenous PDE6, but not trypsin-stimulated PDE activity. Binding experiments using phosphoinositide-containing vesicles revealed patterns of PDE6 binding and PDE6-enhanced G(alphat)-GTPgammaS binding, consistent with the activation profile PI(4,5)P(2) > PI(4)P > PI(5)P approximately control vesicles. These results suggest that enhancement of effector-G protein interactions represents a possible mechanism for modulation of phototransduction gain by changes in phosphoinositide levels, perhaps occurring in response to longterm changes in illumination or other environmental cues.