Ingestion of aged or irradiated apoptotic neutrophils actively suppresses stimulation of macrophages (Mphi). Many bacterial pathogens can also provoke apoptosis in neutrophils, but little is known about how such apoptotic cells influence Mphi activation. We found that neutrophils undergoing apoptosis induced by UV irradiation, Escherichia coli, or Staphylococcus aureus could either stimulate or inhibit Mphi activation. In contrast to Mphi that had ingested irradiated apoptotic neutrophils, Mphi that had phagocytosed bacteria-induced apoptotic neutrophils exhibited markedly increased production of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha, but not the anti-inflammatory cytokine TGF-beta. Moreover, ingestion of bacteria, but not UV-induced apoptotic neutrophils, caused increased expression of FcgammaRI on Mphi, and this effect was not provoked directly by bacteria associated with the apoptotic neutrophils. Instead, we found that a link between pathogen-induced apoptotic neutrophils and up-regulation of the heat shock proteins HSP60 and HSP70, and we also observed that recombinant HSP60 and HSP70 potentiated LPS-stimulated production of TNF-alpha in Mphi. The opposing macrophage responses to neutrophils undergoing apoptosis induced in different ways may represent a novel mechanism that regulates the extent of the immune response to invading microbes in two steps: first by aiding the functions of Mphi at an early stage of infection, and subsequently by deactivating those cells through removal of uninfected apoptotic neutrophils. HSP induction in neutrophils may provide the danger signals required to generate a more effective macrophage response.