Eosinophils were isolated from normal human blood by separation over Percoll gradients, which resulted in eosinophil suspensions of a purity higher than 95% and recoveries of about 65%. Normal human eosinophils were found to respond to formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP) at concentrations greater than 10(-7) mol/L with an increase in the concentration of intracellular free calcium, oxygen consumption, nitroblue tetrazolium reduction, and chemiluminescence. The maximal response of eosinophils to fMLP was lower than that of neutrophils isolated from the same blood samples and required at least ten times as much fMLP as was needed for neutrophils. Low fMLP concentrations (approximately 10(-8) mol/L), which in themselves did not stimulate O2 consumption by either eosinophils or neutrophils, primed these cells to respond to a suboptimal concentration of another stimulus. Purification of eosinophils after treatment of whole blood with fMLP showed that these eosinophils had lost their ability to respond to fMLP. We conclude that normal eosinophils do respond to fMLP and that therefore fMLP should not be used to isolate eosinophils.