The formation of inositol phosphates in response to agonists was studied in brain slices, parotid gland fragments and in the insect salivary gland. The tissues were first incubated with [3H]inositol, which was incorporated into the phosphoinositides. All the tissues were found to contain glycerophosphoinositol, inositol 1-phosphate, inositol 1,4-bisphosphate and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate, which were identified by using anion-exchange and high-resolution anion-exchange chromatography, high-voltage paper ionophoresis and paper chromatography. There was no evidence for the existence of inositol 1:2-cyclic phosphate. A simple anion-exchange chromatographic method was developed for separating these inositol phosphates for quantitative analysis. Stimulation caused no change in the levels of glycerophosphoinositol in any of the tissues. The most prominent change concerned inositol 1,4-bisphosphate, which increased enormously in the insect salivary gland and parotid gland after stimulation with 5-hydroxytryptamine and carbachol respectively. Carbachol also induced a large increase in the level of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate in the parotid. Stimulation of brain slices with carbachol induced modest increase in the bis- and tris-phosphate. In all the tissues studied, there was a significant agonist-dependent increase in the level of inositol 1-phosphate. The latter may be derived from inositol 1,4-bisphosphate, because homogenates of the insect salivary gland contain a bisphosphatase in addition to a trisphosphatase. These results suggest that the earliest event in the stimulus-response pathway is the hydrolysis of polyphosphoinositides by a phosphodiesterase to yield inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and inositol 1,4-bisphosphate, which are subsequently hydrolysed to inositol 1-phosphate and inositol. The absence of inositol 1:2-cyclic phosphate could indicate that, at very short times after stimulation, phosphatidylinositol is not catabolized by its specific phosphodiesterase, or that any cyclic derivative liberated is rapidly hydrolysed by inositol 1:2-cyclic phosphate 2-phosphohydrolase.