1. An inositol trisphosphate (InsP3) distinct from Ins(1,4,5)P3 and Ins(1,3,4)P3, which we previously observed in myeloid and lymphoid cells [French, Bunce, Stephens, Lord, McConnell, Brown, Creba and Michell (1991) Proc R. Soc. London B 245, 193-201; Bunce, French, Allen, Mountford, Moore, Greaves, Michell and Brown (1993) Biochem. J. 289, 667-673], is present in WRK1 rat mammary tumour cells and pancreatic endocrine beta-cells. 2. It has been identified as Ins(1,2,3)P3 by a combination of oxidation to ribitol, a structurally diagnostic polyol, and ammoniacal hydrolysis to identified inositol monophosphates. 3. Ins(1,2,3)P3 concentration in HL60 cells changed little during stimulation by ATP or fMetLeuPhe or during neutrophilic or monocytic differentiation, and Ins(1,2,3)P3 was unresponsive to vasopressin in WRK1 cells. 4. Ins(1,2,3)P3 was usually more abundant than Ins(1,4,5)P3, often being present at concentrations between approximately 1 microM and approximately 10 microM. 5. HL60, WRK-1 and lymphoid cells also contain Ins(1,2)P2 or Ins(2,3)P2, or a mixture of these two enantiomers, as a major InsP2 species. 6. Ins(1,2,3)P3 and Ins(1,2)P2/Ins(2,3)P2 are readily detected in cells labelled for long periods, but not in acutely labelled cells. This behaviour resembles that of InsP6, the most abundant cellular inositol polyphosphate that includes the 1,2,3-trisphosphate motif, which also achieves isotopic equilibrium with inositol only slowly. 7. Ins(1,2,3)P3 is the major InsP3 that accumulates during metabolism of InsP6 by WRK-1 cell homogenates. 8. Possible metabolic relationships between Ins(1,2,3)P3, Ins(1,2)P2/Ins(2,3)P2 and other inositol polyphosphates in cells, and a possible role for Ins(1,2,3)P3 in cellular iron handling, are considered.

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