A series of 11 alkyl-phospholipid analogs, structurally related to platelet activating factor (L-PAF), were analyzed for cytotoxic activity in human leukemic (HL-60) cells, human polymorphonuclear neutrophils, and Detroit 551 human skin fibroblasts. The order of selectiveness of the analogs in their cytotoxic response toward HL-60 cells in comparison to neutrophils is 1-alkyl-2-acetamide-GPC greater than 1-alkyl-2-methoxy-GPC greater than D-PAF greater than 1-acyl-2- lyso-GPC greater than 1-alkyl-2-lyso-GPC greater than L-PAF. A time- sequenced progression of events caused by the most potent cytotoxic alkyl-phospholipid analogs was characterized by (a) a rapid decrease in the cellular uptake and incorporation of 3H-thymidine into DNA that was detectable 4 hr after exposure to the analog, (b) a release of lactate dehydrogenase activity into the media at 8 hr after exposure, and (c) a decrease in cell number due to cell death that begins at 12 hr after exposure. Treatment of HL-60 cells with 1-alkyl-2-methoxy-GPC for 1 hr destroyed 40% of the cells after a subsequent 24-hr incubation period. The varied biologic activities of L-PAF, including how it affects serotonin release from platelets, blood pressure in rats, and cytotoxic responses in normal and leukemic cells, are discussed in relation to its D-enantiomer, 3-alkyl-2-acetyl-GPC, and the 2-acetamide analog. This report characterizes the kinetic events of the cellular responses in both normal and HL-60 cells in relation to the antineoplastic activities of unnatural ether-linked phospholipid analogs that are structurally related to L-PAF.