Individual human neutrophils (PMN) isolated by Hypaque-Ficoll gradient sedimentation, dextran sedimentation, or buffy coat preparation were assessed for the effects of leukotriene B4 (5S,12R dihydroxy 6,14-cis-8, 10 trans eicosatetraenoic acid (LTB4)-pretreatment on N-formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP)-mediated membrane potential or oxidative responses by using flow cytometry and a lipophilic probe of membrane potential (di-pentyl-oxacarbocyanine, di-O-C(5)3), or the nitroblue tetrazolium dye (NBT) reduction test, respectively. Although exposure to LTB4 (10(-7) M) had no effect on the membrane potential of resting PMN and little effect on oxidant production, pretreating PMN with LTB4 followed by FMLP (10(-6) M) demonstrated a significant enhancement in the proportion of depolarizing PMN over that seen with FMLP alone (p = 0.0014, N = 9). This recruitment of previously unresponsive cells by LTB4 was dose and time dependent, with the maximal relative increase in the proportion of depolarizing cells occurring at LTB4 concentrations of 10(-8) to 10(-7) M and within 1 min of LTB4 addition. The recruitment effect persisted despite vigorous washing of the cells. LTB4 also increased the proportion of NBT-positive PMN in response to FMLP. Although LTB4 alone did not depolarize PMN it did induce a light scatter shift indicative of cell activation. 3H-FMLP binding studied at 0 degree C comparing buffer and LTB4-treated PMN indicated no significant change in the number or affinity of FMLP binding. The data provide evidence for the recruitment of a greater proportion of cells into a FMLP-responsive state as a mechanism for the enhanced functional response of PMN pretreated with LTB4, as well as for a dissociation of the membrane potential and light scattering responses of cells to this pro-inflammatory LT. The mechanism of recruitment remains unclear, but it most likely involves the modulation of a post-FMLP binding step.

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