Receptor-directed agonists including N-formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMetLeuPhe), C5a, ATP and UTP all activate phospholipase D (PLD), which is accompanied by secretion in differentiated HL60 cells. Interference in the production of phosphatidase (PA) by the PLD pathway by diverting it towards the production of phosphatidylethanol (PEt) in the presence of ethanol leads to near-total inhibition of the secretion evoked by ATP and UTP and a partial inhibition of that evoked by fMetLeuPhe and C5a. In streptolysin-O-permeabilized cells, fMetLeuPhe is able to activate PLD, and this is dependent on the presence of a low concentration of guanosine 5'-[gamma-thio]-triphosphate (GTP[S]). Ca2+ (10 microM) and GTP[S] individually or in combination are also able to activate PLD and secretion. The stimulation of secretion in permeabilized cells stimulated by Ca2+ alone or fMetLeuPhe or GTP[S] is also abrogated when the production of PA is diverted to PEt by the presence of ethanol. Activation of PLD by GTP[S] or fMetLeuPhe is decreased if the cells are permeabilized first and GTP[S] or fMetLeuPhe is added subsequently. This corresponds well with the loss of the secretory response. We conclude that the ability of GTP[S] or fMetLeuPhe to stimulate secretion from permeabilized cells is dependent on a prior activation of the PLD signalling pathway. PA, generated as a consequence of PLD activation, acts as second messenger that can provide an initiating signal for secretion and is not required for exocytosis itself.