The aim of the present study was to determine whether pertussis toxin (PT)-sensitive GTP-binding proteins (G proteins) are involved in the signal transduction pathway(s) used for phagocytosis and intracellular killing of bacteria by human granulocytes. Treatment of granulocytes with PT resulted in decreased phagocytosis of immunoglobulin G (IgG)-opsonized Staphylococcus aureus but did not affect subsequent intracellular killing of these bacteria. PT also caused a decrease in the extracellular release of superoxide anion (O2-) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) by granulocytes in response to S. aureus opsonized by IgG. However, neither the phagocytosis nor the intracellular killing of S. aureus opsonized by fresh serum was affected by PT, and the release of O2- was partially inhibited. The release of O2- in response to serum-treated zymosan, opsonized mainly by complement components, was also only partially inhibited by PT. It is therefore possible that PT inhibits responses mediated through complement receptors to a lesser extent than those mediated via Fc gamma receptors. The results of this study indicate that PT-sensitive G proteins are involved in the signal transduction pathways that mediate the phagocytosis of IgG-opsonized bacteria and the accompanying respiratory burst.