Eosinophils (EOS) and neutrophils (PMN) display different patterns of accumulation during various inflammatory reactions. We hypothesized that EOS and PMN may differ in their ligands for P-selectin, and that these ligands may differ from those previously identified for E-selectin. Recombinant human P-selectin was immobilized on plastic surfaces and adhesion of 51Cr-labeled human EOS or PMN was compared. EOS and PMN adhered in a concentration-dependent fashion, with similar maximal net adhesion. Preincubation with a blocking P-selectin antibody inhibited adhesion of both cell types, whereas a non-blocking antibody did not. To determine if the counterligands were sialylated proteins, cells were treated with various glycosidases and proteases before testing adhesion. Neuraminidase treatment markedly inhibited binding of both cell types, while endo-beta-galactosidase had no significant effect. Pretreatment with several proteases reduced adhesion of both cell types, although they consistently caused a greater inhibition of PMN binding than EOS binding. To determine whether the P-selectin ligands were surface structures whose expression or function may be altered by cell activation, leukocytes were pretreated with various stimuli; only platelet-activating factor (PAF) treatment reduced the capacity of leukocytes to adhere to P-selectin. Thus, the counterligands for P-selectin on EOS and PMN are similar sialylated, protease-sensitive, endo-beta-galactosidase-resistant structures, whose function and/or expression is reduced following treatment with PAF. These characteristics are clearly different than those reported for EOS and PMN ligands for E-selectin, and suggest disparate roles for P-selectin and E-selectin during EOS and PMN recruitment during inflammatory responses in vivo.