The leukocyte carbohydrate (CHO) Ag CD15, sialyl-CD15, and CDw65 have recently been found to function as ligands for CD62 and ELAM-1 cell adhesion molecules on platelets and endothelium, respectively. Cell adhesion ligands also may act as receptors capable of signal transduction. We therefore investigated the possibility that these CHO Ag and CDw17, a glycolipid Ag whose expression is regulated by leukocyte activation, may have receptor-like characteristics. The effects of antibody cross-linking of CHO Ag on phagocyte activation were measured by using flow cytometry and fluorescent indicators for cytoplasmic calcium ions, oxidative burst, and the granule-associated proteins CD11b and CD67. Cross-linking of CD15, sialyl-CD15, CDw65, or CDw17 induced a moderate release of calcium ions into the cytoplasm of granulocytes, a strong activation of oxidative burst, and a low up-regulation of CD11b and CD67 compared to the effects of treatment with 4 microM FMLP. The results suggest a role for CHO Ag in leukocyte signal transduction and support the view that these molecules are involved in phagocyte activation.