Rat granulosa cells isolated from mature Graafian follicles were incubated with luteinizing hormone under various conditions in order to follow the synthesis and degradation of phospholipids. During acute incubations, luteinizing hormone provoked rapid and concentration-dependent increases in the incorporation of 32PO4 into phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylinositol, and the polyphosphoinositides. Similarly, luteinizing hormone provoked increases in labeling of phosphatidylinositol and the polyphosphoinositides when granulosa cells were incubated with myo-[2-3H]inositol. When granulosa cells were prelabeled with 32PO4 in order to label phosphatidylinositol to constant specific radioactivity (4 h), luteinizing hormone treatment significantly increased 32P-phosphatidylinositol levels (23%). Comparable increases (27%) in the cellular concentrations of phosphatidylinositol were observed in response to luteinizing hormone. In pulse-chase experiments employing 32PO4 - or [3H]inositol-prelabeled cells, luteinizing hormone did not alter phospholipid degradation. In addition, luteinizing hormone did not stimulate degradation of polyphosphoinositides. These results demonstrate that (a) luteinizing hormone has selective effects on phospholipid metabolism in rat granulosa cells which involve phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylinositol, and the polyphosphoinositides, (b) luteinizing hormone increases net levels of phosphatidylinositol and presumably phosphatidic acid and the polyphosphoinositides, and (c) luteinizing hormone does not increase phospholipid degradation. Our findings suggest that luteinizing hormone provokes increases in de novo synthesis of phosphatidylinositol in rat granulosa cells. These changes in phospholipid metabolism may be important for steroidogenesis and other enzymatic processes during treatment with luteinizing hormone.