Neutrophils (PMN) preincubated with recombinant human granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rhGM-CSF) for 2 h and then stimulated with the chemotactic factors, C5a or FMLP, produce substantial amounts of the lipoxygenase products 5-Hete, LTB4, and omega-oxidised LTB4 metabolites (4.36 +/- 0.95 (SEM) pM (n = 21) LTB4 and LTB4 metabolites/10(6) PMN). No lipoxygenase metabolites are detected by HPLC and RIA if purified PMN are stimulated by either GM-CSF or chemotactic factors in the absence of exogenous arachidonate. The priming effect of GM-CSF upon chemotactic factor induced generation of lipid mediators is a relatively slow process, clearly evident after 1 h and optimal after 2 h. Leukotriene generation is measurable with 0.8 U GM-CSF/10(6) PMN and is maximal with 80 U (10(-11)-10(-9) M). Upon activation of primed PMN with chemotactic factors, leukotriene synthesis is induced very rapidly. Already 2.5 min after activation the major lipoxygenase metabolites present are 20-OH LTB4 and 20-COOH LTB4. Our study shows that the synthesis of lipoxygenase metabolites from endogeneous AA can be initiated in PMN through receptor mediated processes by the appropriately timed combination of biological soluble inflammatory mediator peptides. Furthermore, these results indicate that GM-CSF not only enhances effector cell functions but can qualitatively change the mediator profile formed after activation with a second triggering signal. Such a mechanism might be important in amplifying inflammatory responses. Alternatively, lipid mediators formed might also have an intracellular or autocoid role and be responsible for the enhancement of other PMN functions like oxygen radical release.