Bombesin, as well as the two mammalian bombesin-like peptides gastrin-releasing peptide and neuromedin C, have been shown in this study to stimulate in vitro all steps of the phagocytic process in murine peritoneal macrophages: adherence to substrate, chemotaxis, ingestion of cells (Candida albicans) and inert particles (latex beads), and production of superoxide anion as measured by nitroblue tetrazolium reduction. A dose-response relationship was observed, with maximal stimulation of phagocytic process between 10(-12)M and 10(-9)M. Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and neuromedin C caused a higher activation of adherence, chemotaxis and ingestion of C. albicans than bombesin. The three neuropeptides induced in murine macrophages a significant, but transient, increase of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) levels at 60 seconds. On the contrary, these neuropeptides produced a rapid, transient and significant decrease of cAMP at 30 seconds. These results suggest that there are close relations between IP3 and cAMP messenger systems and the phagocytic process in murine peritoneal macrophages when these cells are incubated in the presence of bombesin, GRP or neuromedin C.