Neutrophils participate in the acute phase response and are often associated with tissue injury in a number of inflammatory disorders. The acute phase response is accompanied by alterations in the metabolism of apolipoprotein A-I and high density lipoprotein (HDL). Structural considerations led to studies investigating the effect of purified HDL and apolipoprotein A-I on neutrophil degranulation and superoxide production. Apolipoprotein A-I but not HDL inhibited IgG-induced neutrophil activation by about 60% as measured by degranulation and superoxide production. This suggests that the lipid-associating amphipathic helical domains of apolipoprotein A-I mediate this effect. In support of this was finding inhibitory effects with two synthetic model lipid-associating amphipathic helix peptide analogs. Apolipoprotein A-I, containing tandem repeating amphipathic helical domains, was approximately ten times more effective than the two peptide analogs and inhibited neutrophil activation at well below physiologic concentrations. Competitive binding studies indicate that resting neutrophils have approximately 190,000 (Kd = 1.7 x 10(-7)) binding sites per cell for apolipoprotein A-I, consistent with a ligand-receptor interaction. These observations suggest that apolipoprotein A-I may play an important role in regulating neutrophil function during the inflammatory response.