The most highly charged phospholipids, polyphosphoinositides, are often involved in signaling pathways that originate at cell–cell and cell–matrix contacts, and different isomers of polyphosphoinositides have distinct biological functions that cannot be explained by separate highly specific protein ligand binding sites [Lemmon, Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol., 2008, 9, 99–111]. PtdIns(3,5)P2 is a low abundance phosphoinositide localized to cytoplasmic-facing membrane surfaces, with relatively few known ligands, yet PtdIns(3,5)P2 plays a key role in controlling membrane trafficking events and cellular stress responses that cannot be duplicated by other phosphoinositides [Dove et al., Nature, 1997, 390, 187–192; Michell, FEBS J., 2013, 280, 6281–6294]. Here we show that PtdIns(3,5)P2 is structurally distinct from PtdIns(4,5)P2 and other more common phospholipids, with unique physical chemistry. Using multiscale molecular dynamics techniques on the quantum level, single molecule, and in bilayer settings, we found that the negative charge of PtdIns(3,5)P2 is spread over a larger area, compared to PtdIns(4,5)P2, leading to a decreased ability to bind divalent ions. Additionally, our results match well with experimental data characterizing the cluster forming potential of these isomers in the presence of Ca2+ [Wang et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, 134, 3387–3395; van den Bogaart et al., Nature, 2011, 479, 552–555]. Our results demonstrate that the different cellular roles of PtdIns(4,5)P2 and PtdIns(3,5)P2in vivo are not simply determined by their localization by enzymes that produce or degrade them, but also by their molecular size, ability to chelate ions, and the partial dehydration of those ions, which might affect the ability of PtdIns(3,5)P2 and PtdIns(4,5)P2 to form phosphoinositide-rich clusters in vitro and in vivo.