Intracellular calcium [Ca(2+)](i) is mobilized in many cell types in response to activation of phosphoinositide (PIP(n)) signaling pathways involving PtdIns(4,5)P(2) or PtdIns(3,4,5)P(3). To further explore the relationship between increases in intracellular PIP(n) concentrations and mobilization of [Ca(2+)](i), each of the seven phosphorylated phosphoinositides (PIP(n)s) were delivered into cells and the metabolism and physiological effects of the exogenously administered PIP(n)s were determined. The efficient cellular delivery of fluorophore-tagged and native PIP(n)s was accomplished using histone protein, neomycin, and dendrimeric polyamines. PtdIns(4,5)P(2) fluorophore-tagged analogs with short- and long-acyl chains were substrates for cellular enzymes in vitro and for phospholipases in stimulated fibroblasts. PtdIns(4)P, PtdIns(3,4)P(2) and PtdIns(4,5)P(2), each induced calcium mobilization rapidly after exogenous addition to fibroblasts. PtdIns(3,4,5)P(3) induced a significant, but smaller increase in intracellular calcium. These observations suggest that PIP(n)s other than PtdIns(4,5)P(2) or PtdIns(3,4,5)P(3) may have direct roles in signaling involving [Ca(2+)](i).