Three groups of phosphatidylinositol (PI) kinases convert PI into PI(3)phosphate, PI(4)phosphate, PI(4,5) bisphosphate, and PI(3,4,5)trisphosphate. These phosphoinositides have been shown to function in vesicle-mediated protein sorting, and they serve as second-messenger signaling molecules for regulating cell growth. To further elucidate the mechanism of regulation and function of phosphoinositides, we cloned genes encoding five putative PI kinases from Dictyostelium discoideum. Database analysis indicates that D. discoideum PIK1 (DdPIK1), -2, and -3 are most closely related to the mammalian p110 PI 3-kinase, DdPIK5 is closest to the yeast Vps34p PI 3-kinase, and DdPIK4 is most homologous to PI 4-kinases. Together with other known PI kinases, a superfamily of PI kinase genes has been defined, with all of the encoded proteins sharing a common highly conserved catalytic core domain. DdPIK1, -2, and -3 may have redundant functions because disruption of any single gene had no effect on D. discoideum growth or development. However, strains in which both of the two most highly related genes, DdPIK1 and DdPIK2, were disrupted showed both growth and developmental defects, while double knockouts of DdPIK1 and DdPIK3 and DdPIK2 and DdPIK3 appear to be lethal. The delta Ddpik1 delta Ddpik2 null cells were smaller than wild-type cells and grew slowly both in association with bacteria and in axenic medium when attached to petri plates but were unable to grow in suspension in axenic medium. When delta Ddpik1 delta Ddpik2 null cells were plated for multicellular development, they formed aggregates having multiple tips and produced abnormal fruiting bodies. Antisense expression of DdPIK5 (a putative homolog of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae VPS34) led to a defect in the growth of D. discoideum cells on bacterial lawns and abnormal development. DdPIK5 complemented the temperature-sensitive growth defect of a Schizosaccharomyces pombe delta Svps34 mutant strain, suggesting DdPIK5 encodes a functional homolog of yeast Vps34p. These observations indicate that in D. discoideum, different PI kinases regulate distinct cellular processes, including cell growth, development, and protein trafficking.