The lung is frequently exposed to particulate material that can potentially stimulate release of factors that attract polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN). However, few PMN are noted in the airways of normal subjects, suggesting there is some mechanism to dampen influx of these cells. We have isolated from bronchial lavage a peptide that inhibits PMN chemotaxis to formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (FMLP). In the present study we examined effects of this molecule on 1) chemotaxis to other agonists, 2) FMLP-stimulated PMN superoxide production, 3) PMN calcium fluxes, and 4) binding of FMLP. Our results show that purified inhibitor attenuates PMN chemotaxis to C5a and leukotriene B4. This molecule also inhibits PMN superoxide release in response to FMLP. Exposure to this inhibitor causes an abrupt rise in cytosolic calcium concentration due to a pertussis toxin- sensitive shift of intracellular calcium and attenuates subsequent influx of extracellular calcium in response to FMLP. Binding studies demonstrate the inhibitor induces increased FMLP binding at 37°C but has no effects at 4°C. Inhibition of chemotaxis and increased FMLP binding mediated by this molecule are attenuated by buffering PMN calcium transients. These studies suggest an inhibitor of neutrophil function present in the bronchial environment alters PMN through effects on calcium homeostasis.