- Intracellular compartmentation of inositol was demonstrated in primary cultures of mouse astrocytes, incubated in isotonic medium, by determination of efflux kinetics after "loading" with [3H]inositol. Three kinetically different compartments were delineated. The largest and most slowly exchanging compartment had a halflife of approximately 9 hr. This slow release leads to retention of a sizeable amount of pre-accumulated inositol in the tissue 24 hr after the onset of uptake inhibition, as confirmed by the observation that the inositol uptake inhibitor fucose caused a larger inhibition of unidirectional inositol uptake than of inositol pool size, measured as accumulated [3H]inositol after 24 hr of combined exposure to the inhibitor and the labeled isotope. Based upon the present observations and literature data, it is suggested that the large, slowly exchanging compartment is largely membrane-associated and participating in signaling via the phosphatidylinositide second messenger system, whereas inositol functioning as an osmolyte is distributed in the cytosol and located in one or both of the compartments showing a faster release.