Ins(2,4,5)P3, a metabolically stable analogue of Ins(1,4,5)P3, is widely used in analyses of Ca2+ signalling pathways, but its utility depends upon it faithfully mimicking the effects of the natural messenger, Ins(1,4,5)P3, at InsP3 receptors. To compare the kinetics of InsP3-evoked 45Ca2+ mobilization, Ins(1,4,5)P3- and Ins(2,4,5)P3-stimulated 45Ca2+ release from the intracellular stores of permeabilized rat hepatocytes was measured using rapid superfusion. Both Ins(1,4,5)P3 and Ins(2,4,5)P3 caused concentration-dependent increases in the rate of 45Ca2+ efflux, which accelerated towards a peak and then abruptly switched to a bi-exponentially decaying release rate. However, the peak rate of 45Ca2+ mobilization evoked by maximal concentrations of Ins(2,4,5)P3 was only 65±3% (n = 3) of that evoked by Ins(1,4,5)P3. Furthermore, Ins(2,4,5)P3 inhibited the peak rate of 45Ca2+ efflux evoked by Ins(1,4,5)P3. These results indicate that Ins(2,4,5)P3 is a partial agonist at hepatic Ins(1,4,5)P3 receptors. Additionally, responses to Ins(2,4,5)P3 were less positively cooperative [Hill coefficient (h) = 1.9±0.3] than were those to Ins(1,4,5)P3 (h = 3.0±0.2) and the kinetics of termination of 45Ca2+ mobilization were slower. The lesser efficacy of Ins(2,4,5)P3 may account for the lower cooperativity in the responses it evokes, the slower inactivation of InsP3 receptors and the characteristic patterns of Ca2+ spiking it evokes in intact cells.