An opiate alkaloid-selective receptor, designated mu(3), mediates inhibition by morphine of activation of human peripheral blood monocytes and granulocytes. The mu(3) receptor is present on several macrophage cell types including microglia, on cultured astrocytes, and in brain and retina. Murine macrophage cell lines and human HL-60 leukemia cells contain high concentrations of these receptors. Binding of 3H-morphine to the receptor is displaced by morphine, etorphine, naloxone, diprenorphine and morphine 6-glucuronide, but not by morphine 3-glucuronide, fentanyl, benzomorphans, enkephalins, dynorphin, beta-endorphin, endomorphin-1, other opioid peptides or nociceptin (orphanin FQ). The mu(3) receptor appears to be much more sensitive to inactivation by reduced glutathione than are classical mu, delta and kappa receptors. Evidence is also presented for G protein-coupling of these receptors. These and other data raise the possibility that the mu(3) receptor is a member of a chemokine or of another related receptor family, rather than the opioid receptor family. The affinity for morphine of mu(3) receptors of granulocytic-differentiated HL-60 cells is markedly enhanced in the presence of levorphanol and certain benzomorphans. In contrast, receptors of monocytes, macrophage cell lines, microglia, macrophage-differentiated HL-60 cells and astrocytes are not affected by levorphanol or benzomorphans. It is concluded that mu(3) receptors of granulocytic and promyelocytic cells differ from those of macrophage and astrocyte cell types, possibly due to differences in receptor subtype or to the presence of an additional component in the granulocytic and promyelocytic cells.