Preincubation for 20 h with 1 alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) markedly augmented the chemotactic responsiveness of human blood monocytes to the classical chemoattractant, FMLP. A modest enhancement of monocyte spontaneous locomotion in the absence of chemoattractants was also observed. Maximal increase of monocyte migration was observed after pretreatment with 10(-9) M 1,25(OH)2D3 and was detectable at FMLP concentrations ranging from 10(-10) to 10(-7) M. Pretreatment with 1,25(OH)2D3 augmented the number of monocyte high affinity FMLP receptors (1500 +/- 220 and 3800 +/- 300 sites per cell for untreated and 1,25(OH)2D3-pretreated cells, respectively) with no significant changes in Kd values (2 +/- 0.5 nM and 4 +/- 1 nM, for untreated and 1,25(OH)2D3-pretreated monocytes). Enhanced chemotaxis was not restricted to FMLP, because 1,25(OH)2D3-treated monocytes showed enhanced migration also in response to activated C components and chemotactic cytokines. In agreement with previous observations, monocytes from AIDS patients showed defective migration capacity. In vitro exposure to 1,25(OH)2D3 stimulated monocyte migration in all 10 patients examined with considerable quantitative differences among individuals. Regulating the responsiveness of mature monocytes to chemo-attractants, 1,25(OH)2D3, produced systemically or in situ by immunocompetent cells, could play a role in the regulation of the recruitment of monocytes at sites of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, or bone resorption. The potential of 1,25(OH)2D3 as a restorative agent under conditions of defective phagocyte recruitment deserves further exploration.