Human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) increases neutrophil surface expression of the cellular adhesion molecule CD11b and primes the respiratory burst stimulated by the bacterial peptide f-met-leuphe (FMLP). We have examined the effects of the isoquinolinesulfonamide protein kinase inhibitors H7 and H8 on these functions of GM-CSF using whole blood assays. Concentrations of H7 and H8 that inhibited the 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) stimulated upregulation of CD11b expression and activation of the respiratory burst, both augmented the effects of GM-CSF. H7 and H8 enhanced the GM-CSF-stimulated increase in CD11b expression to 215% +/- 10% (P less than .05) and 233% +/- 45% (P less than .05), respectively, of the value obtained with GM-CSF alone. The GM-CSF priming of the FMLP- stimulated oxidative burst was increased to 190% +/- 44% (P less than .01) by preincubation with H7 and to 172% +/- 25% (P less than .01) with H8. Preincubation with H8 did not affect overall binding of 125I- GM-CSF to neutrophils, but inhibited GM-CSF receptor internalization after ligand binding (P less than .05). These data indicate that the effects of GM-CSF are not mediated by protein kinase C and that a phosphorylation event down-modulates the neutrophil response to GM-CSF. It suggests that internalization of the receptor-ligand complex is not a rate-limiting step in signal transduction, and that regulation of the rate of internalization may be an important level of control of the activity of GM-CSF.