Peripheral blood-derived human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNL) can be induced to synthesize prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) from endogenous and exogenous arachidonic acid (AA) when exposed to agents such as human recombinant (hr) granulocyte-macrophage (GM) colony-stimulating factor (CSF), hr tumor necrosis factor-α, hr granulocyte (G)-CSF, lipopolysaccharide and the chemoattractant N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine. Treatment of PMNL with hr macrophage (M)-CSF and interleukin 3, however, did not result in detectable PGE2 synthesis. Cytokines stimulated PGE2 production during two distinct time intervals, an early peak of PGE2 that was detectable at 20 min and a late one detectable after 4 h. Inhibition of protein synthesis by cycloheximide (CHX) had virtually no effect on the early increase of PGE2 but prevented the late increase. Late addition of CHX to cultures after stimulation with hr GM-CSF at 4 h resulted in decline of PGE2 synthesis from exogenous arachidonic acid. Treatment of PMNL with GM-CSF had direct effects on cyclooxygenase (COx). PMNL depleted from COx by acetyl salicylic acid (ASA) recovered to synthesize PGE2 following exposure to GM-CSF. Recovery from COx inhibition by ASA could be prevented by CHX.