The inositol lipid pools of isolated rat hepatocytes were labeled with [3H]myo-inositol, stimulated maximally with vasopressin and the relative contents of [3H]inositol phosphates were measured by high performance liquid chromatography. Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate accumulated rapidly (peak 20 s), while inositol 1,3,4-trisphosphate and a novel inositol phosphate (ascribed to inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate) accumulated at a slower rate over 2 min. Incubation of hepatocytes with 10 mM Li+ prior to vasopressin addition selectively augmented the levels of inositol monophosphate, inositol 1,4-bisphosphate, and inositol 1,3,4-trisphosphate. A kinase was partially purified from liver and brain cortex which catalyzed an ATP-dependent phosphorylation of [3H]inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate to inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate. Incubation of purified [3H]inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate with diluted liver homogenate produced initially inositol 1,3,4-trisphosphate and subsequently inositol 1,3-bisphosphate, the formation of which could be inhibited by Li+. The data demonstrate that the most probable pathway for the formation of inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate is by 3-phosphorylation of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate by a soluble mammalian kinase. Degradation of both compounds occurs first by a Li+-insensitive 5-phosphatase and subsequently by a Li+-sensitive 4-phosphatase. The prolonged accumulation of both inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate in vasopressin-stimulated hepatocytes suggest that they have separate second messenger roles, perhaps both relating to Ca2+-signalling events.