Eosinophil functions can be modulated by several cytokines such as granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), interleukin- 3 (IL-3), and IL-5. We have investigated the modulatory role of these cytokines on the interaction of human eosinophils with opsonized particles (serum-treated zymosan [STZ]). Addition of STZ to eosinophils isolated from the peripheral blood of normal human donors resulted in an interaction of the STZ particles with only 15% to 25% of the cells. Treatment of the eosinophils with GM-CSF, IL-3, or IL-5 strongly enhanced both the rate of particle binding and the percentage of eosinophils binding STZ. The effect of the cytokines is most likely mediated by a change in affinity of the complement receptor type 3 (CR3) on the eosinophils for the complement fragment iC3b on the STZ particles. This is indicated by the observation that (1) the effect of the cytokines on STZ binding was prevented by a monoclonal antibody against the iC3b-binding site on CR3 and (2) the enhanced binding was already apparent before upregulation of CR3 on the cell surface was observed. In a previous study, similar results were obtained with platelet-activating factor (PAF)-primed eosinophils. Because we found that the cytokines strongly enhanced the STZ-induced PAF synthesis, we investigated the role of both released PAF and cell-associated PAF in the priming phenomenon by the cytokines. Cytokine priming appeared to be largely independent of the synthesis of PAF.