A barbed-end capping activity was found in high speed supernates of neutrophils lysed in submicromolar calcium. In dilute supernate (> or = 100-fold dilution of cytoplasm), this activity accounted for most of the inhibition of barbed-end elongation of pyrenyl-G-actin from spectrin-F-actin seeds. Pointed-end elongation from gelsolin-capped F-actin seeds was not inhibited at comparable concentrations of supernate, thus excluding actin monomer sequestration as a cause of the observed inhibition. Most of the capping activity was due to capping protein-beta 2 (a homologue of cap Z). Thus, while immunoadsorption of > or = 95% of the gelsolin in the supernate did not decrease capping activity, immunoadsorption of capping protein-beta 2 reduced capping activity proportionally to the amount of capping protein-beta 2 adsorbed. Depletion of > 90% of capping protein-beta 2 from the supernate removed 90% of its capping activity. The functional properties of the capping activity were defined. The dissociation constant for binding to barbed ends (determined by steady state and kinetic analyses) was approximately 1-2 nM; the on-rate of capping was between 7 x 10(5) and 5 x 10(6) M-1 s-1; and the off-rate was approximately 2 x 10(-3) s-1. The concentration of capper free in the intact cell (determined by adsorption of supernate with spectrin-actin seeds) was estimated to be approximately 1-2 microM. Thus, there appeared to be enough high affinity capper to cap all the barbed ends in vivo. Nevertheless, immediately after lysis with detergent, neutrophils contained sites that nucleate barbed-end elongation of pyrenyl-G-actin. These barbed ends subsequently become capped with a time course and concentration dependence similar to that of spectrin-F-actin seeds in high speed supernates. These observations suggest that, despite the excess of high affinity capper, some ends either are not capped in vivo or are transiently uncapped upon lysis and dilution.