The interference of several new hexadecylphosphocholine analogues with mitogenic signal transduction was investigated in NIH3T3 fibroblasts by studying the effects of these agents on thrombin-induced inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (Ins(1,4,5)P3) formation and the subsequent Ca2+ release, on protein kinase C (PKC) in cell-free extracts, on the PKC-mediated activation of the Na+/H+ antiporter and on c-fos induction. The compounds investigated include hexadecylphosphocholine (HePC), octadecyl-[2-(N-methyl-piperidinio)-ethyl]-phosphate (D20133), octadecyl-(N,N-dimethyl-piperidinio-4-yl)-phosphate (D21266); octadecyl-[2-(trimethyl-arsonio)-ethyl]-phosphate (D21805) and hexadecylphospho-L-serine (HePS). The data indicate that (i) all compounds inhibit the thrombin-induced progression of growth-arrested NIH3T3 cells into S phase with similar IC50 values; (ii) the common denominator of all compounds is a reduction of Ins(1,4,5)P3 formation, resulting in an attenuation of Ca2+ release; (iii) the direct interaction with PKC does not significantly contribute to the antitumor activity of these agents; (iv) the new HePC congeners D21266, D21133 and D21805 affect the same targets as HePC, i.e. PKC and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate-specific phospholipase C (PLC). The lower toxicities of these compounds cannot be explained by a less pronounced inhibition of PKC or PLC, respectively.