Macrolide antibiotics are taken up and concentrated by host cells, particularly phagocytes, and are likely candidates to modify cell functions. In this study, we extended our previous work concerning the effect of three 14-membered-ring macrolides (dirithromycin, erythromycin and erythromycylamine) on human neutrophil exocytosis, and found that three other erythromycin A derivatives (roxithromycin, clarithromycin and the azalide, azithromycin) also triggered neutrophil degranulation in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. After 30 min of incubation, the correlation coefficients for concentration-dependence for roxithromycin were 0.885, 0.739 and 0.750 (P < 0.005) and for clarithromycin were 0.795, 0.599, 0.733 (P < 0.02), respectively, for lysozyme, beta-glucuronidase and lactoferrin release. Although the underlying mechanism was not elucidated, these and previous data suggest that intracellular accumulation is a prerequisite. Furthermore, comparison of the characteristics of macrolide-induced exocytosis with those of exocytosis triggered by the synthetic chemotactic stimulus FMLP suggested that different mechanisms are involved. In keeping with this possibility, we showed that combined treatment (macrolides plus FMLP) resulted in totally additive exocytosis of azurophilic but not specific granules. The clinical relevance of our data remains to be ascertained.