Neutrophil apoptosis leads to macrophage ingestion of intact senescent neutrophils. This may represent a neutrophil removal mechanism that is important both in the control of inflammatory tissue injury and for the normal resolution processes of inflammation. Because apoptosis is likely to be a key control process in cell and tissue homeostasis, a number of inflammatory mediators were tested for their ability to modulate the rate of apoptosis in populations of neutrophils aging in culture. Endotoxic lipopolysaccharide, human recombinant complement factor 5a, and human recombinant granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor all markedly inhibited the rate of neutrophil apoptosis in a concentration-dependent fashion, without inducing necrosis (as assessed by trypan blue exclusion). This inhibitory effect on the rate of neutrophil apoptosis was shown by morphological criteria and confirmed by gel electrophoresis of extracted DNA. Inhibition of apoptosis of aging neutrophil populations was associated with prolongation of the functional life span of the population as assessed by the ability of neutrophils to spread on glass surfaces, to polarize in response to deliberate stimulation with N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLP), and to release the granule enzyme marker myeloperoxidase on fMLP stimulation. These observations show that inflammatory mediators prolong the functional life span of neutrophils through modulation of apoptosis. Further elucidation of these mechanisms will lead to a better understanding of the processes controlling neutrophil residence and function in inflamed tissues and may provide further insights into the molecular mechanisms of apoptosis, which is of widespread importance in tissue biology.