Phospholipase D catalyses the hydrolysis of the phosphodiester bond of glycerophospholipids to generate phosphatidic acid and a free headgroup. Phospholipase D activities have been detected in simple to complex organisms from viruses and bacteria to yeast, plants, and mammals. Although enzymes with broader selectivity are found in some of the lower organisms, the plant, yeast, and mammalian enzymes are selective for phosphatidylcholine. The two mammalian phospholipase D isoforms are regulated by protein kinases and GTP binding proteins of the ADP-ribosylation and Rho families. Mammalian and yeast phospholipases D are also potently stimulated by phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate. This review discusses the identification, characterization, structure, and regulation of phospholipase D. Genetic and pharmacological approaches implicate phospholipase D in a diverse range of cellular processes that include receptor signaling, control of intracellular membrane transport, and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Most ideas about phospholipase D function consider that the phosphatidic acid product is an intracellular lipid messenger. Candidate targets for phospholipase-D-generated phosphatidic acid include phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate 5-kinases and the raf protein kinase. Phosphatidic acid can also be converted to two other lipid mediators, diacylglycerol and lyso phosphatidic acid. Coordinated activation of these phospholipase-D-dependent pathways likely accounts for the pleitropic roles for these enzymes in many aspects of cell regulation.