Phosphoinositide metabolism in the plasma membrane is linked to transmembrane signal transduction. In this study we have investigated some physical properties (e.g. molecular order and dynamics) of phosphatidylinositol (PI) in various membrane preparations by time-resolved fluorescence techniques, using a synthetic PI derivate with a cis-parinaroyl chain on the sn-2 position. Phospholipid vesicles, normal and denervated rat skeletal muscle sarcolemmal membranes, and acetylcholine receptor rich membrances from Torpedo marmorata were investigated both at 4°C and 20 °C. For comparison we have also included 2-parinaroyl-phosphatidylcholine (PC) in this study. The fluorescent lipids were incorporated into the membrane preparations by way of specific phospholipid transfer proteins, to ensure an efficient and non-perturbing insertion of the lipid-probes. In the Torpedo membranes the order parameters measured for the parinaroyl derivatives of both PC and PI were higher than in phospholipid vesicles. For the Torpedo membrane preparations the acyl chain order for the PI was lower than that for PC, whereas the opposite was true for the vesicles. This inversion strongly suggests that PI has different interactions with certain membrane components as compared to PC. This is also suggested by the significantly higher rate of restricted rotation of PI as compared to PC. In contrast to the order parameters, the correlation times were almost identical for both probes and showed little difference between vesicles and the Torpedo membranes. In contrast to Torpedo membranes, the time-dependent fluorescence anisotropy of the two lipid probes in the sarcolemmal membranes showed, after an initial fast decay, a subsequent gradual increase. This phenomenon was satisfactorily analyzed by assuming two populations of probe lipids with distinct lifetimes, rotational correlation times and molecular order. The order parameter of the population with a short lifetime compared with that of phospholipid vesicles, whereas the population with a long lifetime agreed with that of the Torpedo membranes.