As part of an effort to define the cytotoxic trigger molecules on human myeloid cells, the ability of the different Fc receptors for IgG (Fc gamma R) to mediate killing of tumor cell lines by monocytes and granulocytes was examined. This was accomplished by studying cytolysis of hybridoma cell (HC) targets bearing surface antibody directed toward the different Fc gamma R. The HC line, HC IV.3A, which bears Ig directed to the low affinity Fc gamma R (Fc gamma RII) on monocytes and neutrophils was lysed by human monocytes. The extent of lysis of HC IV.3A was approximately equal to that of anti-Fc gamma RI (the high affinity Fc gamma R on human monocytes) bearing HC lines (HC 32.2A and HC 62A) and was not augmented by treatment of the monocytes with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). In contrast, neutrophils lysed HC IV.3A and HC 32.2A only after activation with IFN-gamma. Since Fc gamma RI is not detectable on untreated neutrophils and is induced by IFN-gamma on these cells, lysis of HC 32.2A by IFN-gamma-activated neutrophils correlated with receptor induction. On the other hand, Fc gamma RII was present at equal levels on untreated and IFN-gamma-treated neutrophils, but only IFN-gamma-treated neutrophils mediated cytotoxicity via Fc gamma RII. In this case, enhanced killing appeared to be due to events other than an increase in Fc gamma RII number. Neither untreated nor IFN-gamma-treated neutrophils mediated the lysis of the anti-Fc gamma RIII bearing HC 3G8A. Thus, binding to the tumor target via this Fc receptor does not lead to lysis and may initiate signals distinct from those triggered through Fc gamma RI or Fc gamma RII. Surprisingly, HC bearing high amounts of mouse IgG1 antibody of irrelevant specificity were also lysed by monocytes. This lysis was blocked by soluble IV.3 antibody and thus appeared to be due to binding of the Fc portion of the surface Ig to Fc gamma RII on monocytes. Furthermore, monocytes from donors with a form of Fc gamma RII incapable of binding aggregated mouse IgG1 did not lyse these HC, but displayed normal lysis of HC IV.3, demonstrating that this structurally different Fc gamma RII remained a functional trigger molecule. Overall, these studies have demonstrated the specificity of Fc receptors in triggering monocyte- and granulocyte-mediated antibody-dependent tumor cell killing and have begun to dissect functional similarities and differences among the three defined Fc gamma R on human myeloid cells.