Stimulation of pancreatic islets with glucose induces phospholipid hydrolysis and accumulation of nonesterified arachidonic acid, which may play signaling or effector roles in insulin secretion. Of enzymes that catalyze phospholipid hydrolysis, islet β-cells express low molecular weight secretory phospholipases A2 (PLA2) and a Group VI, Ca2+-independent PLA2 (iPLA2). Previous studies indicate that islets also express a protein recognized by antibodies against a Group IV, cytosolic, Ca2+-dependent PLA2 (cPLA2). To further examine the possible expression of cPLA2 by islets, we screened a rat islet cDNA library with a probe that recognizes cPLA2 sequence, and isolated a full-length cPLA2 cDNA. The rat islet cPLA2-deduced amino acid sequence is 96% identical to those of human and mouse cPLA2. Transfection of COS-7 cells with cPLA2 cDNA in an expression vector induced expression of Ca2+-dependent PLA2 activity and of a protein recognized by anti-cPLA2 antibody. Comparison of recombinant islet cPLA2 and iPLA2 activities expressed in transfected COS-7 cells indicated that iPLA2 but not cPLA2 is stimulated by ATP. Both activities are similarly sensitive to inhibition by arachidonyltrifluoromethyl ketone, but iPLA2 is more effectively inhibited by a haloenol lactone suicide substrate: than cPLA2. RT-PCR experiments with RNA from purified islet β-cells and from an α-cell-enriched population prepared by fluorescence-activated cell-sorting indicated that cPLA2 mRNA is more abundant in the β-cell population. Immunoblotting analyses indicate that islets express cPLA2-immunoreactive protein, and that interleukin-1 does not affect its expression the cPLA2 is thus one of at least three classes of PLA2 enzymes with distinct properties expressed in β-cells.