Human neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils are known to undergo apoptotic cell death. The Fas/Fas ligand pathway has been implicated as an important cellular pathway mediating apoptosis in diverse cell types. We conducted studies to examine the importance of the Fas/FasL system in normal human phagocytes. Although Fas expression was detected on neutrophils, monocytes, and eosinophils, constitutive expression of FasL was restricted to neutrophils. The three types of phagocytes demonstrated differential sensitivity to Fas-induced apoptosis. Only neutrophils were highly susceptible to rapid apoptosis in vitro after stimulation with activating anti-Fas IgM (mAb CH-11). Fas-mediated neutrophil apoptosis was suppressed by incubation with G-CSF, GM-CSF, IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, or dexamethasone, as well as the selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors, herbimycin A and genistein. Spontaneous neutrophil death in vitro was partially suppressed by Fas-Ig fusion protein or antagonistic anti-Fas IgG1 (mAb ZB4). In coculture experiments, neutrophils released a soluble factor inducing death in Fas-susceptible Jurkat cells via a mechanism sensitive to the presence of Fas-Ig or anti-Fas IgG1. Immunoblot analysis using specific anti-human FasL IgG1 (mAb No. 33) identified a 37-kD protein in lysates of freshly isolated neutrophils and a 30-kD protein in the culture supernatant of neutrophils maintained in vitro. Our results suggest that mature neutrophils may be irrevocably committed to autocrine death by virtue of their constitutive coexpression of cell-surface Fas and FasL via a mechanism that is sensitive to proinflammatory cytokines, glucocorticoids, and inhibitors of tyrosine kinase activity. Furthermore, neutrophils can serve as a source of soluble FasL, which may function in a paracrine pathway to mediate cell death.