Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PLC) activity reflects a summation of the activities of three families, beta, gamma, and delta, each of which is regulated differently. In order to understand the contribution of each family to cell proliferation signaling, expression of each family was suppressed by use of an inducible expression vector for antisense PLC sequences in a single cell line, FTO-2B rat hepatocytes. Activation of second messengers of PLC [diacylglycerol (DAG) and inositol 1,4,5-tris(phosphate) (IP3)] was dramatically reduced, providing a strategy for probing the consequences of PLC deficiency on cell function. Importantly, while one PLC family was suppressed, the other PLCs actively responded to specific stimuli, suggesting parallel and independent signaling pathways for each PLC family in FTO-2B cells. Selective suppression of each PLC family altered cell growth markedly and differentially. The rank order for suppression of cell growth by loss of a PLC family was gamma > delta > beta. Exploration of down-stream growth regulators revealed that loss of beta and gamma, but not delta, families was associated with markedly reduced basal ras and protein kinase C activity. Moreover, suppression of each of the three PLC families caused remarkably reduced basal and stimulated MAP kinase activities. Interestingly, cellular levels of PIP2 were increased and dramatically correlated with growth inhibition rate in the clones with suppressed PLC activity, suggesting that PIP2 itself can serve as a second messenger of cell growth regulation.