1. To examine the role of the phosphoinositide cascade triggered by disturbed Ca2+ homeostasis in ischaemic neurones, inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate (InsP4) was applied to the cytoplasmic face of membrane patches isolated from CA1 pyramidal neurones in the gerbil hippocampus. 2. In outside-out recordings, InsP4 induced an inward current which was increased by raising the extracellular [Ca2+]. In contrast, no clear channel openings could be observed in patches from neurones of sham-operated gerbils. 3. Open probabilities of InsP4-activated channels were significantly decreased upon application of omega-conotoxin but were not affected by omega-agatoxin or nifedipine. 4. In inside-out patches using high concentrations of Ca2+, Ba2+ or Sr2+ in the pipette solution, InsP4 enhanced inward currents. 5. Application of the isomers of InsP4 slightly enhanced the currents, but inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) had no effect. 6. In the absence of InsP4 there was a single main Ba2+ current peak of 4.0 pA in amplitude, whereas upon its application two main peaks of 3.0 and 7.2 pA were present. 7. The open probabilities of these channels were apparently increased by InsP4. 8. These findings support the view that a disturbed phosphoinositide cascade occurs in the hippocampal pyramidal neurones after ischaemia and the InsP4 thus formed plays an important role in promoting the Ca2+ accumulation which results in neuronal death.