Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) plays crucial roles in diverse cellular responses, including phospholipid digestion and metabolism, host defense and signal transduction. PLA2 provides precursors for generation of eicosanoids, such as prostaglandins (PGa) and leukotrienes (LTs), when the cleaved fatty acid is arachidonic acid, platelet-activating factor (PAF) when the sn-1 position of the phosphatidylcholine contains an alkyl ether linkage and some bioactive lysophospholipids, such as lysophosphatidic acid (lysoPA). As overproduction of these lipid mediators causes inflammation and tissue disorders, it is extremely important to understand the mechanisms regulating the expression and functions of PLA2. Recent advances in molecular and cellular biology have enabled us to understand the molecular nature, possible function, and regulation of a variety of PLA2 isozymes. Mammalian tissues and cells generally contain more than one enzyme, each of which is regulated independently and exerts distinct functions. Here we classify mammalian PLA2s into there large groups, namely, secretory (sPLA2), cytosolic (cPLA2), and Ca(2+)-independent PLA2s, on the basis of their enzymatic properties and structures and focus on the general understanding of the possible regulatory functions of each PLA2 isozyme. In particular, the roles of type II sPLA2 and cPLA2 in lipid mediator generation are discussed.