Complement receptors on neutrophils and eosinophils play a role in activation and adhesion. During asthmatic reactions these receptors have been found elevated on circulating granulocytes. In the present study we compared the expression of CD35 (complement receptor type 1) and CD11b (complement receptor type 3) on neutrophils and eosinophils from asthmatic and non-asthmatic children. This was done in whole blood samples using depolarized light scattering for the discrimination of neutrophils and eosinophils. The non-stimulated expression as well as the upregulated expression of receptors by the chemotactic peptide N-formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenyl-alanine (fMLP) were studied. The results showed that without prior stimulation only the expression of CD35 on neutrophils was significantly elevated in children with asthma (P<0.05). After up-regulation with fMLP, the CD11b expression on neutrophils (P<0.005, fMLP: 0.002 microM) and eosinophils (P<0.05, fMLP: 0.02 microM) was significantly higher in asthmatic children than in the controls. These results indicate that the inducible expression of CD11b on neutrophils and eosinophils from allergic asthmatic children is primed in vivo.