The generation of diradylglycerol (DRG) and phosphatidic acid (PdtOH) was investigated in neutrophils primed with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Mass accumulation of DRG and PdtOH was measured using reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography and thin layer chromatography, respectively. GM-CSF had no direct effect on the levels of PdtOH and DRG, but it increased PdtOH generation and the late phase of DRG accumulation in human neutrophils stimulated with FMLP. The elevation of the mass of PdtOH peaked approximately 100 s and clearly preceded that of DRG, which peaked at 150 s. The diacylglycerol kinase inhibitor R59022 enhanced the sustained increase in DRG but did not produce a parallel inhibition in PdtOH production. GM-CSF was without effect on the level of inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate [Ins(1,4,5)P3] and did not affect the liberation of Ins(1,4,5)P3 induced by FMLP. These findings exclude the involvement of the PtdIns(4,5)P2-specific phospholipase C/diacylglycerol pathway in the sustained phase of DRG accumulation. The early (30-s) appearance of PdtOH clearly suggests that GM-CSF enhanced FMLP receptor-linked phospholipase D (PLD) generation of PdtOH. PLD was assessed more directly by formation of labeled phosphatidylethanol (PEt) through PLD capacity of catalyzing a trans-phosphatidylation in presence of ethanol. The formation of PEt associated with a concomitant decrease in PdtOH directly demonstrated that the mechanism by which GM-CSF enhances PdtOH production is activation of a PLD active on phosphatidylcholine. This study provides evidence that the mechanism of action of GM-CSF involves upregulation of PLD activity leading to enhanced generation of PdtOH and DRG in FMLP-stimulated neutrophils. These findings may provide the basis for several of the priming effects of GM-CSF.