Intercellular communication of epithelial cells was examined by measuring changes in intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i). Mechanical stimulation of respiratory tract ciliated cells in culture induced a wave of increasing Ca2+ that spread, cell by cell, from the stimulated cell to neighboring cells. The communication of these Ca2+ waves between cells was restricted or blocked by halothane, an anesthetic known to uncouple cells. In the absence of extracellular Ca2+, the mechanically stimulated cell showed no change or a decrease in [Ca2+]i, whereas [Ca2+]i increased in neighboring cells. Iontophoretic injection of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) evoked a communicated Ca2+ response that was similar to that produced by mechanical stimulation. These results support the hypothesis that IP3 acts as a cellular messenger that mediates communication through gap junctions between ciliated epithelial cells.