Neonatal neutrophils express less membrane and cytoplasmic CR3 (iC3b-receptor, Mac-1, alphaM beta2-integrin) than do adult neutrophils, and it has been suggested that this renders neonatal neutrophils deficient in diapedesis and bactericidal activity. The reason(s) for this deficiency are unknown. In this study, CR3 expression and the CR3-dependent respiratory burst activity of individual neonatal neutrophils are quantified in comparison with adult leucocytes using flow cytometry. Monocytes and neutrophils are defined as CD14highCD15low and CD14lowCD15high, respectively. Although neonatal neutrophils bore less CR3 on average than did adult neutrophils, neonatal neutrophils were more heterogeneous and many neonatal neutrophils expressed adult levels of CR3. Because of higher neutrophil concentrations in cord versus adult blood, the calculated number of neutrophils in cord blood expressing high amounts of CR3 was equivalent to that of adult blood. Similar findings were made with monocytes. The size of the CR3-dependent respiratory burst stimulated by particulate beta-glucan correlated directly with the expression of CR3 by individual neutrophils. With neonatal and adult neutrophils having comparable CR3 densities, the respiratory burst activities were equivalent. Wright-Giemsa differential staining of the subset of neonatal neutrophils with low CR3 levels isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting showed a higher proportion of immature cells than the sorted population expressing high CR3 levels. Therefore, higher proportions of immature cells in cord blood probably explain previous reports of deficient CR3 expression and function. The typical neutrophilia of cord blood may compensate for this apparent deficiency by providing adult concentrations of mature neutrophils.