Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA)-mediated Ca(2+) mobilization in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells does not involve either inositol 1,4, 5-trisphosphate (Ins(1,4,5)P(3))- or ryanodine-receptor pathways, but is sensitive to inhibitors of sphingosine kinase. This present study identifies Edg-4 as the receptor subtype involved and investigates the presence of a Ca(2+) signaling cascade based upon the lipid second messenger molecule, sphingosine 1-phosphate. Both LPA and direct G-protein activation increase [(3)H]sphingosine 1-phosphate levels in SH-SY5Y cells. Measurements of (45)Ca(2+) release in premeabilized SH-SY5Y cells indicates that sphingosine 1-phosphate, sphingosine, and sphingosylphosphorylcholine, but not N-acetylsphingosine are capable of mobilizing intracellular Ca(2+). Furthermore, the effect of sphingosine was attenuated by the sphingosine kinase inhibitor dimethylsphingosine, or removal of ATP. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that LPA stimulated intracellular Ca(2+) "puffs," which resulted from an interaction between the sphingolipid Ca(2+) release pathway and Ins(1,4,5)P(3) receptors. Down-regulation of Ins(1,4,5)P(3) receptors uncovered a Ca(2+) response to LPA, which was manifest as a progressive increase in global cellular Ca(2+) with no discernible foci. We suggest that activation of an LPA-sensitive Edg-4 receptor solely utilizes the production of intracellular sphingosine 1-phosphate to stimulate Ca(2+) mobilization in SH-SY5Y cells. Unlike traditional Ca(2+) release processes, this novel pathway does not require the progressive recruitment of elementary Ca(2+) events.