Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) functions as a second messenger to mobilize Ca2+ from intracellular reservoirs. The release mechanism displays all-or-none characteristics, that may account for other observations that the InsP3-induced mobilization of Ca2+ is quantal. Quantal release may depend on the sensitivity of the InsP3 receptor being regulated by the Ca2+ concentration in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum. We report here that the InsP3-sensitive store in hepatocytes discharges spontaneously when overloaded with Ca2+. The release, which is blocked by heparin, is preceded by an increasing sensitivity of the InsP3 receptor to endogenous InsP3, and is promoted by those sulphydryl reagents (oxidized glutathione and thimerosal) that induce Ca2+ oscillations in intact cells (ref. 8, and T. A. Rooney, D. C. Renard, E. J. Sass and A. P. Thomas, manuscript in preparation). This novel process could have a role in generating both Ca2+ oscillations and Ca2+ waves.