1. Lipoxin A4 (LXA4) and lipoxin B4 (LXB4) have been evaluated for their capacities to modulate neutrophil (PMN) migration and endothelial cell adherence using compounds prepared by total chemical synthesis. 2. Increased PMN migration was seen with concentrations of LXA4 from 10(-9) mol/l to 10(-7) mol/l. LXA4 was 100-fold less potent than leukotriene B4 (LTB4) and it elicited only one-half of the maximal response of LTB4. 3. The (5S,6S,15S)-isomer of LXA4 induced only a weak migratory response and LXB4 was inactive, suggesting that the activity of LXA4 was stereospecific. 4. Modified chequerboard analysis indicated that LXA4 was a chemokinetic agent. 5. Preincubation of PMN with increasing concentrations of LXA4 induced a very similar dose- and time-dependent inhibition of the subsequent response to 10(-7) mol/l LTB4 or 10(-7) mol/l N-formyl-L-methionyl-L-leucyl-L-phenylalanine (FMLP). The inhibition was observed at 10(-10) mol/l LXA4; the concentration which produced 50% inhibition was 10(-8) mol/l and 100% inhibition of PMN locomotion occurred at 10(-6) mol/l LXA4. 6. The (5S,6S,15S)-isomers of LXA4 and LXB4 were 5- and 100-fold less potent than LXA4, respectively, in suppressing LTB4- or FMLP-induced PMN migration. 7. Preincubation of PMN with LXA4 led to a suppression of calcium mobilization, as assessed by Quin2-AM fluorescence, when the cells were subsequently stimulated under optimal conditions by LTB4 or FMLP. 8. These results suggest that the inhibitory activity of lipoxins may be related to the capacity of these molecules to regulate calcium ion mobilization.