In the presence of Ca2+ (2.5 mM) and using [14C]arachidonoyl phosphatidylinositol (PI) membrane as substrate, phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) (EC 188.8.131.52) in rat brain synaptosomes was activated by deoxycholate but not taurocholate. Calcium stimulated enzymic hydrolysis by both detergents, but the stimulatory effect of taurocholate was less than that of deoxycholate. Peak stimulation for deoxycholate was observed at 1 mg/ml, whereas that for taurocholate was 4 mg/ml. When 1 mM EDTA was added to the taurocholate (4 mg/ml) and Ca2+ (3.5 mM) system, synaptosomal PI-PLC activity was greatly stimulated, to almost the same level as the deoxycholate + Ca2+ system. This system required the presence of all three factors, and EGTA could not effectively replace EDTA in the stimulatory action. The detergent-induced hydrolysis of synaptosomal PI by the deoxycholate + Ca2+ and the taurocholate + Ca2+ + EDTA systems was strongly inhibited by divalent metal ions such as Zn2+, Cu2+, Pb2+, and Fe2+, whereas Mg2+ and Ca2+ were ineffective. Nevertheless, only the deoxycholate + Ca2+ system was responsive to enzyme inhibition by membrane-perturbing agents such as lysophospholipids and free fatty acids. The specific requirement for EDTA in the taurocholate system may be due to the release of a pool of inhibitory divalent metal ions from the membranes.