IL-8 has been characterized primarily as a polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) chemoattractant and proinflammatory mediator. Recently, we have reported that [Ala-IL-8]77 is secreted by activated cultured human endothelial cells and can function as a potent inhibitor of PMN adhesion to these monolayers. The pathophysiologic relevance of this in vitro observation was examined by determining the effects of intravascular or extravascular administration of IL-8 on PMN emigration at sites of acute inflammation in the skin of NZW rabbits. An i.v. bolus of [Ala-IL-8]77 (12 micrograms/kg) produced a marked and selective reduction of circulating PMN within 3 min, which returned toward preinjection levels within 30 min, and subsequently exceeded this level. A similar response was observed for circulating radiolabeled PMN, and gamma-scintigraphy determined that the lungs were the primary site of leukosequestration. During the 30- to 150-min interval after i.v. infusion of [Ala-IL-8]77, PMN emigration into acute inflammatory sites, elicited by various chemoattractants or cytokines, was significantly reduced, as judged histologically and quantitated with 51Cr-labeled PMN and myeloperoxidase measurements. Intravenous administration of [Ser-IL-8]72 yielded similar results. This inhibitory effect of i.v. IL-8 was transient and reinducible and did not reflect a suppression of the responsiveness of circulating PMN to chemoattractants. Intradermal injections of [Ala-IL-8]77 or [Ser-IL-8]72 induced dose-dependent PMN accumulation, which also was significantly reduced by i.v. administration of either form of IL-8. These results indicate that i.v. IL-8 can function as a PMN-directed leukocyte adhesion inhibitor and suggest that local secretion of IL-8 by activated endothelium may differentially modulate leukocyte-endothelial interactions at sites of acute inflammation.