Several receptors for neurotransmitters, hormones and growth factors cause accelerated phosphodiesteratic breakdown of polyphosphoinositides when activated. One of the soluble products of this reaction, inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate (Ins(1,4,5)P3) is thought to act as a second messenger signalling the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores. In support of this hypothesis, several studies have shown that Ins(1,4,5)P3 releases sequestered Ca2+ from permeable cells and microsomes. On the basis of certain structural requirements for Ca2+-releasing activity by inositol phosphates, it has been postulated that Ins(1,4,5)P3 acts by binding to a specific intracellular receptor, probably on a component of the endoplasmic reticulum. Here we report that 32P-Ins(1,4,5)P3 binds to a specific saturable site in permeabilized guinea pig hepatocytes and rabbit neutrophils, and that the properties of this binding site suggest that it is the physiological receptor for Ins(1,4,5)P3.