Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity is increased in mammalian cells in response to numerous stimuli such as osmotic challenge, oxidative stress and exposure to allergens. The increased PLA2 activity is seen as an increased release of free, polyunsaturated fatty acids, e.g. arachidonic acid and membrane-bound lysophospholipids. Even though arachidonic acid acts as a second messenger in its own most mammalian cells seem to rely on oxidation of the fatty acid into highly potent second messengers via, e.g. cytochrome P450, the cyclo-oxygenase, or the lipoxygenase systems for downstream signalling. Here, we review data that illustrates that stress-induced PLA2 activity involves various PLA2 subtypes and that the PLA2 in question is determined by the cell type and the physiological stress condition.