Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) are frequently used in the clinical management of neutropenia. These cytokines not only enhance the proliferation of myeloid precursor cells but also influence the function of mature leukocytes. In a previous study, we found that the in vivo effects of G-CSF on neutrophils differed from those in vitro. In the present study, we investigated the effects of a single dose of recombinant GM-CSF (7.5 microg/kg, subcutaneously) on neutrophils, eosinophils, and monocytes in healthy volunteers. We analyzed leukocyte kinetics, phenotypical changes, neutrophil degranulation, and systemic cytokine production. After GM-CSF injection, phenotypical changes included upregulation of CD11b on all three cell types and a decreased expression of L-selectin and Fc(gamma)RIII on neutrophils. Neutrophil degranulation was evident from the increased plasma concentrations of lactoferrin and elastase. GM-CSF induced the release of interleukin-8 (IL-8), but not of IL-6 or tumor necrosis factor alpha. In comparison to the results from our previous study with G-CSF in healthy volunteers, GM-CSF induced a stronger activation of mature neutrophils but had a much less pronounced effect on the production and maturation of neutrophil precursors. These data may help to guide the choice between the two cytokines in different clinical situations.