Human neutrophil Fc receptor-mediated phagocytosis can be markedly enhanced by a low m.w. (less than 10,000) heat-labile cytokine(s) derived from specifically stimulated human mononuclear cells and from a human T cell line, MO(t). PMN incubated with supernatant from control mononuclear leukocyte (MNL) culture bound EIgG (percentage of rosettes = 73.7% +/- 7.1) but did not ingest the attached targets (phagocytic index, PI = 40.7 +/- 9.5) as efficiently as PMN incubated with supernatant from adherent MNL, which had ingested EIgG and were then cocultured with nonadherent MNL (PI = 264.3 +/- 46.3). Cytokine-containing supernatants were fractionated on YM-10 Centricon microconcentrators, and the effluent (YM-10E) was found to contain the phagocytosis-enhancing activity. Optimal Fc receptor-mediated ingestion by YM-10E-stimulated PMN required a critical level of target-bound IgG; stimulation was dose dependent and detectable after 5 min at 37 degrees C with a maximal response by 15 min. Monoclonal antibody 3G8 (anti-PMN Fc receptor) inhibited in a dose-dependent fashion both Fc receptor-mediated rosette formation and ingestion by nonstimulated and YM-10E-stimulated PMN. Solid-phase 3G8 Fab had the same effect. A previously undescribed monoclonal antibody, 1C2, exhibited a different pattern of inhibition. It had no effect on rosetting or ingestion of EIgG by nonstimulated PMN; however, it inhibited EIgG phagocytosis by YM-10E-stimulated PMN down to the level of nonstimulated ingestion without affecting rosette formation. Solid-phase 1C2 had the same effect. These data indicate that phagocytosis mediated by 3G8-positive Fc receptors may be enhanced by cytokine(s) stimulation in a manner requiring the molecule recognized by 1C2. Monoclonal antibodies to the alpha-chain of CR3 had only minimal effects on YM-10E-stimulated ingestion. Fluorescence flow cytometry of YM-10E-stimulated PMN, indirectly stained with 3G8 or 1C2, indicated that cytokine enhancement of EIgG ingestion occurred without an increase in either 3G8 or 1C2 binding sites. These data show that the low avidity Fc receptor, which binds immune complexes, may be functionally modulated at sites of inflammation where PMN and macrophages mediate clearance and destruction of immune complexes and opsonized particles.