Since Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen, and infection of the lungs is characterized by neutrophil infiltration we studied the role of a staphylococcal toxin, enterotoxin A (SEA) on the synthesis and secretion of IL-8 by human alveolar macrophages. As SEA concentration was increased, the IL-8 accumulation in the macrophage conditioned medium increased. The concentration of mRNA encoding IL-8 was also elevated in the macrophage in response to increases in SEA concentration. Although the monocytic cell line U937 was able to respond to SEA and secrete IL-8, treatment with PMA prior to SEA stimulation increased the IL-8 accumulation around fifty fold indicating that maturation of the undifferentiated cell to a more macrophage-like cell facilitated IL-8 accumulation. Stimulating human alveolar macrophages with high concentrations of SEA caused an increase in IL-1 accumulation. However, when the cells were incubated with SEA in the presence of IL-1 receptor antagonist, there was no decrease in IL-8 accumulation. Addition of a neutralizing anti-IL-8 monoclonal antibody to the culture medium of SEA-stimulated macrophages significantly reduced the neutrophil chemotactic activity of the medium. These studies showed that IL-8 is a major neutrophil chemotaxin from human alveolar macrophages stimulated with SEA.