Eosinophils play an important role as effector cells in allergic, parasitic, and other conditions. The mechanism(s) by which eosinophils mediate their effector functions was studied by incubation of human normodense eosinophils with Sepharose beads coupled to various Ig isotypes as targets. Controls included eosinophils incubated alone or incubated with uncoated beads, human serum albumin-, or OVA-coated beads. An eosinophil granule protein, the eosinophil-derived neurotoxin (EDN), was measured as an indicator of eosinophil degranulation. Eosinophils released eosinophil-derived neurotoxin when incubated with Sepharose beads coupled to Ig of the IgG or IgA isotypes, as well as IgA-Fc fragments. Mixtures of IgG and IgA on beads did not act synergistically. Secretory IgA (sIgA) provided the most potent signal for eosinophil degranulation and was two to three times more potent than IgG. Furthermore, 2 to 17% of the normodense eosinophils bound to IgG- or IgA-coated beads, whereas 24 to 27% of the eosinophils bound to sIgA-coated beads. Thus, sIgA may be the principal Ig mediating eosinophil effector function at mucosal surfaces in helminth infections and hypersensitivity diseases, especially bronchial asthma.