Secretory phospholipase A(2) (sPLA(2)) produces lipids that stimulate polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs). With the discovery of sPLA(2) receptors (sPLA(2)-R), we hypothesize that sPLA(2) stimulates PMNs through a receptor. Scatchard analysis was used to determine the presence of a sPLA(2) ligand. Lysates were probed with an antibody to the M-type sPLA(2)-R, and the immunoreactivity was localized. PMNs were treated with active and inactive (+EGTA) sPLA(2) (1-100 units of enzyme activity/ml, types IA, IB, and IIA), and elastase release and PMN adhesion were measured. PMNs incubated with inactive, FITC-linked sPLA(2)-IB, but not sPLA(2)-IA, demonstrated the presence of a sPLA(2)-R with saturation at 2.77 fM and a K(d) of 167 pM. sPLA(2)-R immunoreactivity was present at 185 kDa and localized to the membrane. Inactive sPLA(2)-IB activated p38 MAPK, and p38 MAPK inhibition attenuated elastase release. Active sPLA(2)-IA caused elastase release, but inactive type IA did not. sPLA(2)-IB stimulated elastase release independent of activity; inactive sPLA(2)-IIA partially stimulated PMNs. sPLA(2)-IB and sPLA(2)-IIA caused PMN adhesion. We conclude that PMNs contain a membrane M-type sPLA(2)-R that activates p38 MAPK.