Influenza A virus (IAV) activates the human neutrophil, but induces a dysfunctional state as well. Cell activation may contribute to the containment of the virus and/or cause local tissue damage. Certain features of the neutrophil activation response elicited by IAV are distinctive when compared with that triggered by formyl-methyl-leucyl- phenylalanine (FMLP). An atypical respiratory burst response occurs in which hydrogen peroxide, but no superoxide, is formed. This unusual respiratory burst stoichiometry persists despite marked priming of the IAV-induced response. A comprehensive examination of the activation cascade initiated by these stimuli failed to show an explanation for these differences. Both IAV and FMLP comparably stimulate inositol trisphosphate and phosphatidic acid production. The subsequent increase in intracellular calcium (Ca2+i) upon FMLP stimulation was more dependent on extracellular Ca2+ than with IAV activation, but both stimuli induced Ca2+ influx. FMLP and IAV exhibited equal susceptibility to inhibition by protein kinase inhibitors in eliciting the respiratory burst, and actin polymerization occurred in response to each agonist. A possible explanation for the anomalous respiratory burst induced by IAV is that O2- is generated at an intracellular site inaccessible to assay, and/or virus binding to sialic acid constituents of the plasma membrane alters the O2- generating capacity of the respiratory burst oxidase; evidence for each mechanism is offered.