The effect of obstructive jaundice on local neutrophil accumulation in response to inflammatory stimulus was investigated in rats. Obstructive jaundice was produced by bile duct ligation for 7 days. Zymosan (200 mg) was injected intraperitoneally and 4h later myeloperoxidase activity in the peritoneal fluid was measured to quantify neutrophil recruitment. Zymosan-induced neutrophil recruitment was significantly greater (more than two-fold) in bile duct-ligated rats than in sham-ligated or normal animals. Depletion of peritoneal cells significantly suppressed neutrophil recruitment after zymosan injection in all three groups, with no significant differences between the groups. In normal rats, replacement of their peritoneal cells by those from bile duct-ligated rats did not enhance zymosan-induced neutrophil recruitment. In contrast, bile duct-ligated rats treated with peritoneal cell replacement from normals showed significantly increased neutrophil recruitment after zymosan injection. In vitro neutrophil chemotaxis in response to formyl-Met-Leu-Phe was significantly enhanced in bile duct-ligated rats, compared with that in sham-ligated animals. The results suggest that local neutrophil recruitment in response to inflammation may be enhanced in obstructive jaundice and that increased neutrophil chemotactic activity, not macrophage activity, may play a prime role in the mechanism.