Phosphoinositide kinases (PI3Ks) play an important role in mitogenic signaling and cell survival, cytoskeletal remodeling, metabolic control and vesicular trafficking. Here we summarize the structure-function relationships delineating the activation process of class I PI3Ks involving various domains of adapter subunits, Ras, and interacting proteins. The resulting product, PtdIns(3,4,5)P3, targets Akt/protein kinase B (PKB), Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk), phosphoinositide-dependent kinases (PDK), integrin-linked kinase (ILK), atypical protein kinases C (PKC), phospholipase Cgamma and more. Surface receptor-activated PI3Ks function in mammals, insects, nematodes and slime mold, but not yeast. While many members of the class II family have been identified and characterized biochemically, it is presently unknown how these C2-domain containing PI3Ks are activated, and which PI substrate they phosphorylate in vivo. PtdIns 3-P is produced by Vps34p/class III PI3Ks and operates via the PtdIns 3-P-binding proteins early endosomal antigen (EEA1), yeast Vac1p, Vps27p, Pip1p in lysosomal protein targeting. Besides the production of D3 phosphorylated lipids, PI3Ks have an intrinsic protein kinase activity. For trimeric GTP-binding protein-activated PI3Kgamma, protein kinase activity seems to be sufficient to trigger mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Recent disruption of PI3K genes in slime mold, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster and mice further underlines the importance of PI3K signaling systems and elucidates the role of PI3K signaling in multicellular organisms.