The regulation by monovalent cations, guanine nucleotides, and bacterial toxins of [3H]FMLP binding to rabbit neutrophil plasma membranes was studied by using dissociation techniques to identify regulatory effects on separate receptor states. Under conditions of low receptor occupancy (1 nM [3H]FMLP) and in both Na+ and K+ buffers, dissociation is heterogenous, displaying two distinct, statistically significant off rates. [3H]FMLP binding was enhanced by substituting other monovalent cations for Na+. In particular, enhanced binding in the presence of K+ relative to Na+ was caused by additional binding to both rapidly and slowly dissociating receptors. Three receptor dissociation rates, two of which appear to correspond to the two affinity states detected in equilibrium binding studies, were defined by specific GTP and pertussis toxin (PT) treatments. Neither GTP, nor PT or cholera toxins (CT) had an effect on the rate of dissociation of [3H]FMLP from the rapidly dissociating form of the receptor. Both 100 microM GTP and PT treatments increased the percentage of rapidly dissociating receptors, correspondingly decreasing the percentage of slowly dissociating receptors. The observed changes in the rapidly and slowly dissociating receptors after GTP, PT, and CT treatments were caused by an absolute decrease in the amount of binding to the slowly dissociating receptors. However, complete inhibition of slowly dissociating receptor binding by GTP, PT, or both was never observed. Both GTP and PT treatments, but not CT treatment, increased by two-fold the rate of dissociation of 1 nM [3H]FMLP from the slowly dissociating form of the receptor, resulting in a third dissociation rate. Thus, slowly dissociating receptors comprise two different receptor states, a G protein-associated guanine nucleotide and PT-sensitive state and a guanine nucleotide-insensitive state.

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