Neutrophils are often seen first at sites of granulomatous inflammation but their contribution to monocyte recruitment and granuloma formation is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that neutrophils release chemotaxins which attract monocytes. We found that rapid accumulations of fluid and influxes of neutrophils followed by monocytes occurred in bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-sensitized rabbits given BCG intrapleurally but did not occur in nitrogen mustard-treated (neutropenic) BCG-sensitized rabbits given BCG intrapleurally - unless the rabbits were also given intrapleural injections of neutrophils. We also found monocyte chemotaxins in pleural spaces of control and neutrophil-reconstituted neutropenic but not in neutropenic rabbits given BCG intrapleurally. Moreover, pleural fluid monocyte chemotaxins had molecular weights (12,000-15,000 and 1,000) that were similar to molecular weights of monocyte chemotaxins present in supernatants from mixtures of neutrophils and BCG in vitro. In addition, intrapleural injections of neutrophils and BCG or supernatants from in vitro mixtures of neutrophils and BCG (but not neutrophils or BCG alone) increased the numbers of monocytes and 3H cell pellet activity in pleural fluids from untreated neutropenic rabbits or neutropenic rabbits previously injected intravenously with 3[H]methyl thymidine-labeled monocytes. Furthermore, fewer BCG were recovered from pleural fluids of BCG-sensitized control compared to neutropenic rabbits given BCG, and at autopsy 10 d after instillation of BCG, control but not neutropenic rabbits had well-defined granulomas without adhesions on their pleural surfaces. Our results suggest that BCG stimulates neutrophils to release chemotaxins that recruit monocytes, and that these responses might contribute to granuloma formation in tuberculous pleurisy.