We have previously found that the retroviral p15E-derived hexapeptide LDLLFL is a potent inhibitor of the FMLP-induced polarization response that is an early event in chemotaxis of monocytes and granulocytes. We investigated the mechanism of action of LDLLFL. LDLLFL inhibited the changes in [Ca2+]i in response to FMLP, but not to C5a or leukotriene B4. The reverse peptide LFLLDL was not inhibitory. In the presence of LDLLFL, the FMLP dose-response curve shifted to higher concentrations, indicating that LDLLFL interfered with binding of FMLP to its receptor. Indeed, binding of [3H]FMLP to neutrophilic granulocytes was inhibited in the presence of LDLLFL. Furthermore, immunosuppressive LDLLFL homologs also inhibited binding of FMLP to granulocytes, whereas noninhibitory LDLLFL homologs did not. Our results suggest that retroviral p15E and p15E-like factors, which can be found in serum of patients with cancer or chronic upper airway infections, may interfere with the interaction of N-formylpeptides derived from (opportunistic) bacteria, with monocytes and granulocytes. This receptor interference may impair monocyte and granulocyte reactivity toward these agents.