Light responses in Drosophila are reportedly abolished in severe mutants of the phospholipase C (PLC) gene, norpA. However, on establishing the whole-cell recording configuration in photoreceptors of the supposedly null allele, norpAP24, we detected a small ( approximately 15 pA) inward current that represented spontaneous light channel activity. The current decayed during approximately 20 min, after which tiny residual responses (<2 pA) were elicited by intense flashes. Both spontaneous currents and light responses appeared to be mediated by residual PLC activity, because they were enhanced by impairing diacylglycerol (DAG) kinase function by mutation (rdgA) or by restricting ATP but were reduced or abolished by a mutation of the PLC-specific Gq alpha subunit. It was reported recently that metabolic inhibition activated the light-sensitive transient receptor potential and transient receptor potential-like channels, even in norpAP24, leading to the conclusion that this action was independent of PLC (Agam, K., von Campenhausen, M., Levy, S., Ben-Ami, H. C., Cook, B., Kirschfeld, K., and Minke, B. (2000) J. Neurosci. 20, 5748-5755). However, we found that channel activation by metabolic inhibitors in norpAP24 was strictly dependent on the residual PLC activity underlying the spontaneous current, because the inhibitors failed to activate any channels after the spontaneous current had decayed. By contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids invariably activated the channels independently of PLC. The results strongly support the obligatory requirement for PLC and DAG in Drosophila phototransduction, suggest that activation by metabolic inhibition is primarily because of the failure of diacylglycerol kinase, and are consistent with the proposal that polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are potential DAG metabolites, act directly on the channels.