Eosinophils participate in the inflammatory response seen in allergy and parasitic infestation, but a role in host defense against bacterial infection is not settled. The bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI) has been demonstrated in neutrophils and it exerts bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects against a wide variety of Gram-negative bacterial species. Using the Western blot technique, a 55-kD band, corresponding to BPI, was detected in lysates from both neutrophils and eosinophils. The localization of BPI in immature and mature eosinophils was investigated using immunoelectron microscopy. BPI was found in immature and mature specific granules of eosinophils and was detected in phagosomes as well, indicating release of the protein from the granules into the phagosomes. Using a specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, eosinophils were shown to contain 179 ng of BPI/5 x 10(6) eosinophils compared with 710 ng BPI/5 x 10(6) neutrophils. The presence of BPI in eosinophils suggests a role for these cells in host defense against Gram-negative bacterial invasion or may suggest a role for BPI against parasitic infestation.