Human neutrophils were found to release a 91-kDa gelatinase that is serologically related to tumor-derived gelatinolytic enzymes, as evidenced by immunoprecipitation. In order to identify the neutrophil gelatinase, the activity in conditioned medium from human neutrophil suspensions was purified by affinity chromatography on a gelatin substrate. The 91-kDa active enzyme was further separated from other stainable protein bands by classical SDS PAGE and blotting to a solid support. Amino-terminal sequence analysis of blotted proteins showed that the 91-kDa enzyme is a truncated form of tumor-derived 92-kDa gelatinase (type IV collagenase), lacking eight residues at the NH2-terminus. Sequence analysis of enzymatically inactive cleavage products of this neutrophil gelatinase demonstrated that the gelatin-binding part of the molecule is restricted to the amino-terminal third. Exocytosis of gelatinase-containing granules from neutrophils occurred spontaneously within 6 h after neutrophil plating. When the cells were triggered with the phorbol ester phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, a strong secretagogue, rapid gelatinase release was observed. When granulocytes were stimulated with the neutrophil-activating peptide interleukin-8, maximal exocytosis occurred within 1 h. The almost immediate release of neutrophil gelatinase after stimulation of the cells with a chemotactic factor might play a key role in remodeling of the extracellular matrix during granulocyte movement in response to chemotactic stimuli.