Human interleukin 5 (IL-5), known as a selective colony-stimulating factor of the eosinophil lineage and activator of mature eosinophils, also profoundly influences the mediator release profile of human basophils. IL-5 by itself triggers neither granule release nor de novo synthesis of lipid mediators. However, at low concentrations (0.1-10 ng/ml), IL-5 rapidly primes basophils for enhanced histamine release and leukotriene C4 (LTC4) generation in response to all established basophil agonists. LTC4 generation is more strongly affected by IL-5 than histamine release. In particular, IL-5 renders basophils capable of producing large quantities of LTC4 in response to C5a, which, without the cytokine, induces histamine release only. Finally, IL-5 renders basophils responsive to agonists (neutrophil-activating peptide 1 and C3a), which are otherwise inefficient triggers for basophil mediator release. The effects are similar to the recently established bioactivity of IL-3 on basophils, with the exception of its influence on IgE-dependent basophil activation, which is less pronounced. Thus, IL-5 strongly modulates the function not only of eosinophils but also of basophils, the two major effector leukocyte types involved in allergic inflammatory processes, e.g., in asthma.