Leukotriene B4 (LTB4), a metabolite of arachidonic acid, is known to be a potent chemotactic and chemokinetic substance. We have used the hamster cheek pouch microcirculation model to study the effect of LTB4 on vascular permeability and the involvement of neutrophil granulocytes in this response. Intravascular fluorescein-labeled dextran (mol wt 150,000) was used as a tracer of macromolecular permeability. Topical application of LTB4 (150 nM-5 microM) to the hamster cheek pouch resulted in an immediate increase in adhering leukocytes in postcapillary venules and later venules. Leukocyte accumulation was reversible, but continued longer the higher the dose of LTB4 used. Subsequently, a dose-dependent increase in vascular permeability was seen at post-capillary and larger venules, with a maximum 10-20 min after application; the maximum occurred later the higher the dose of LTB4. Depletion of neutrophil granulocytes by pretreatment of the animals with antineutrophil serum obtained from immunized rabbits significantly decreased the permeability response to LTB4, whereas the response to histamine was unaffected. These results suggest that neutrophil granulocytes play a role in LTB4-mediated permeability increase. LTB4 may be of importance both for the leukocyte accumulation and for the edema formation seen in inflammatory reactions.