The small guanosine triphosphate (GTPase) p21rac is highly expressed in human neutrophils where it is thought to play a role in cytoskeletal reorganization and superoxide production. Using the p21rac binding domain of PAK (PAK-RBD) as an activation-specific probe, we have investigated agonist-stimulated activation of p21rac. Stimulation of neutrophils with the chemoattractants fMet-Leu-Phe (fMLP) or platelet-activating factor (PAF) induced an extremely rapid and transient p21rac activation, being optimal within 5 seconds. This activation correlates with the rapid changes of intracellular free Ca(2+) ([Ca(2+)](i)) stimulated by fMLP; however, changes in [Ca(2+)](i) were neither sufficient nor required for p21rac activation. Furthermore, fMLP-induced p21rac activation was not inhibited by broad tyrosine kinase inhibitors or specific inhibitors of ERK, p38 mitogen activated protein kinase, Src, or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases. Surprisingly, the cytokines granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha did not cause p21rac activation or modulate fMLP-induced p21rac activation. AlF(-), a potent activator of heterotrimeric G-protein alpha-subunits, however, was found to activate p21rac. Stimulation of neutrophils with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) strongly activated the respiratory burst, but did not induce p21rac activation, suggesting that superoxide production per se can occur independently of p21rac activation. These data suggest that in human granulocytes, G-protein coupled receptors, but not cytokine receptors, activate p21rac via a rapid, novel exchange-mechanism independently of changes in [Ca(2+)](i), tyrosine phosphorylation, or PI3K.