In cultured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons prelabeled with [3H]arachidonic acid [( 3H]AA), bradykinin (BK) stimulation resulted in increased levels of radioactive diacylglycerol, monoacylglycerol, and free AA. The transient increases in content of radioactive diacylglycerol and monoacylglycerol preceded the increase in level of free AA, suggesting the contribution of a diacylglycerol lipase pathway to AA release. An analysis of the molecular species of diacylglycerols in unstimulated cultures revealed the presence of two primary [3H]AA-containing species, 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl and 1-stearoyl-2-arachidonoyl diacylglycerol. BK stimulation resulted in a preferential increase in content of 1-stearoyl-2-arachidonoyl diacylglycerol. When DRG cultures were labeled with [3H]stearic acid, treatment with BK increased the amount of label in diacylglycerol and free stearic acid, but not in monoacylglycerol. This result suggested that AA release occurred through the successive actions of an sn-1 diacylglycerol lipase and monoacylglycerol lipase. Other data supporting a diacylglycerol lipase pathway was the significant inhibition of [3H]AA release and consequent accumulation of diacylglycerol by RG 80267, which preferentially inhibits diacylglycerol lipase. Analysis of the molecular species profiles of individual phospholipids in DRG neurons indicated that phosphoinositide hydrolysis may account for a significant portion of the rapid increase in content of 1-stearoyl-2-arachidonoyl diacylglycerol. We were unable to obtain evidence that the phospholipase A2 pathway makes a significant contribution to BK-stimulated AA release in DRG cultures. Under our assay conditions there were no BK-stimulated increases in levels of radioactive lysophosphatidylinositol, lysophosphatidylcholine, or lysophosphatidylethanolamine in cultures prelabeled with [3H]inositol, [3H]choline, or [3H]-ethanolamine, respectively.