Recently, our laboratory reported the purification and partial amino acid sequence of a 10-kDa eosinophil cytotoxicity-enhancing factor (ECEF) polypeptide from the U937 cell source. This cytokine enhanced human eosinophil antibody-dependent cytotoxic function by greater than 200% and was half-maximally effective at a concentration of approximately 1 ng/ml. In this study, we describe the conditions required for ECEF synthesis and the use of rabbit antibody raised to 10-kDa ECEF to investigate the existence of related polypeptide species. Unstimulated U937 cells released an immunoreactive 14-kDA species. Cells stimulated with 7.5 micrograms/ml of LPS also released a 13-kDa species. Cells stimulated with 400 ng/ml of PMA also synthesized a 10-kDa species (equivalent in size to the form we had purified). This 10-kDa species remained primarily cell associated, but detectable amounts were released into the supernatant by 48 h of culture. In washed cell pellets, the location of the 10-kDa species was found to be in the plasma membrane, externally oriented, as determined by FACS analysis, iodination with the membrane impermeable reagent 125I-sulfosuccinimidyl-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl) propionate, and by its removal with brief trypsin treatment. Partial amino acid sequence data suggested that the 14-, 13-, and 10-kDa species all share the same N-terminal. The 14- and 10-kDa ECEF species were recovered by electroelution from SDS-PAGE gels and tested for activity in the assay of eosinophil cytotoxic function. Because of the amino acid sequence similarities between the ECEF species and thioredoxin (TRX), rTRX (synthesized in Escherichia coli and purified) was also tested for activity. The 14-kDa ECEF and rTRX induced a slight, but consistent and statistically significant enhancement of eosinophil cytotoxic function. By comparison, lower doses of the 10-kDa ECEF induced a major increase in cytotoxic function. Thus the forms of ECEF differ in size, conditions required for synthesis, trafficking by the U937 cell after synthesis, and biologic activity. It is likely that these considerations bear on the involvement of ECEF in the pathophysiology of eosinophilia in vivo.