Several lines of evidence suggest that phosphorylated products of phosphatidylinositol play critical functions in the regulation of membrane trafficking along the secretory pathway. To probe the possible involvement of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) in regulated exocytosis, we have examined its subcellular distribution in cultured chromaffin cells by immunoreplica analysis and confocal immunofluorescence. We found that the PI 3-kinase heterodimer consisting of the regulatory and catalytic subunits was associated essentially with the subplasmalemmal cytoskeleton in both resting and nicotine-stimulated chromaffin cells. Attempts to immunoprecipitate PI 3-kinase with anti-phosphotyrosine antibodies failed, suggesting that the activity of PI 3-kinase was not modulated by tyrosine phosphorylation and/or physical interaction with SH2-containing proteins in stimulated chromaffin cells. LY294002 [2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one], a potent inhibitor of PI 3-kinase, produced a dose-dependent inhibition of catecholamine secretion evoked by various secretagogues. Furthermore, cytochemical experiments with rhodamine-labeled phalloidin revealed that LY294002 blocked the disassembly of cortical actin in chromaffin cells stimulated by a depolarizing concentration of potassium. Our results suggest that PI 3-kinase may be one of the important regulatory exocytotic components involved in the signaling cascade controlling actin rearrangements required for catecholamine secretion.