The subjective feeling of cold is mediated by the activation of TRPM8 channels in thermoreceptive neurons by cold or by cooling agents such as menthol. Here, we demonstrate a central role for phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P(2)) in the activation of recombinant TRPM8 channels by both cold and menthol. Moreover, we show that Ca(2+) influx through these channels activates a Ca(2+)-sensitive phospholipase C and that the subsequent depletion of PI(4,5)P(2) limits channel activity, serving as a unique mechanism for desensitization of TRPM8 channels. Finally, we find that mutation of conserved positive residues in the highly conserved proximal C-terminal TRP domain of TRPM8 and two other family members, TRPM5 and TRPV5, reduces the sensitivity of the channels for PI(4,5)P(2) and increases inhibition by PI(4,5)P(2) depletion. These data suggest that the TRP domain of these channels may serve as a PI(4,5)P(2)-interacting site and that regulation by PI(4,5)P(2) is a common feature of members of the TRP channel family.