The existence of a functional receptor for secretory component (SC) on the eosinophil membrane might explain the preferential degranulation induced by secretory IgA (sIgA) when compared to serum IgA. Indeed, flow cytometry analysis revealed that purified human SC could bind to a subpopulation (4-59%) of blood eosinophils purified from 19 patients with eosinophilia. Binding of radiolabeled human SC could be competitively inhibited using unlabeled SC or secretory IgA but not with serum IgA or IgG. Immunoprecipitation and immunosorbent chromatography using human SC revealed the presence of a major component at 15 kDa in eosinophil extracts as well as in culture supernatants but not in neutrophils. The 15-kDa protein eluted from the human SC immunosorbent was able to bind to SC or to sIgA but not to serum IgA. Eosinophils preincubated with human SC or sIgA released eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) and eosinophil peroxidase (EPO) after addition of anti-SC or anti-IgA monoclonal antibody as respective cross-linking reagents. These results indicated that binding of free or complexed SC to human eosinophils could induce eosinophil degranulation. Furthermore, the dose-dependent inhibition by SC of mediator release induced by sIgA but not by serum IgA, suggested that the receptor for SC could be involved in the preferential degranulation mediated by sIgA. These results indicate a novel pathway of eosinophil activation and its potential involvement in mucosal immunity, particularly in inflammatory diseases associated with infiltration of eosinophils and the enhanced production of sIgA.