The mechanism whereby agonist occupancy of muscarinic cholinergic receptors elicits an increased tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and paxillin has been examined. Addition of oxotremorine-M to SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells resulted in rapid increases in the phosphorylation of FAK (t1/2 = 2 min) and paxillin that were independent of integrin-extracellular matrix interactions, cell attachment, and the production of phosphoinositide-derived second messengers. In contrast, the increased tyrosine phosphorylations of FAK and paxillin were inhibited by inclusion of either cytochalasin D or mevastatin, agents that disrupt the cytoskeleton. Furthermore, phosphorylation of FAK and paxillin could be prevented by addition of either wortmannin or LY-294002, under conditions in which the synthesis of phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate was markedly attenuated. These results indicate that muscarinic receptor-mediated increases in the tyrosine phosphorylation of FAK and paxillin in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells depend on both the maintenance of an actin cytoskeleton and the ability of these cells to synthesize phosphoinositides.