To study different activation states in polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) in mice, we compared the function of murine PMN obtained from the bone marrow (BMPMN) with those of PMN obtained by intraperitoneal induction with thioglycolate (TGPMN) or uric acid (UAPMN). When stimulated with chemotactic peptides, e.g., formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLF), WKYMVM, or WKYMVm, the TGPMN and UAPMN showed greatly enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) compared with BMPMN, which suggests that exudation to the peritoneum per se induces a primed state in the cells. The WKYMVm peptide was the most potent stimulant of ROS generation, and it desensitized for subsequent stimulation with fMLF or WKYMVM. This desensitization was broken by the addition of cytochalasin B. The TGPMN and UAPMN appeared to be fully primed, since no increase in response was induced by pretreatment with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). In contrast, the BMPMN response was increased 2.5- to 3-fold. The differences in oxidative responses were supported by degranulation studies. Preincubation with TNF-alpha promoted CR3 expression on BMPMN, and this level of expression was also enhanced by WKYMVm. In contrast, CR3 expression on untreated TGPMN and UAPMN was already similar to that on TNF-alpha-primed BMPMN and could be only slightly enhanced by TNF-alpha treatment. Taken together, these results indicate that BMPMN are in a resting state and have the capacity to become primed, while peritoneal exudate PMN are already fully primed upon isolation. These results have major implications for murine neutrophil research and show the importance of defining which PMN subsets to use when investigating murine models.