Addition of (15S)-hydroxy-5,8,11-cis-13-trans-eicosatetraenoic acid (15-HETE) and the ionophore A23187 (2.5 microM) to human neutrophils led to the formation of both lipoxin A4 and lipoxin B4 as well as a novel 5,6,15-trihydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid. The new compound was identified using an improved isolation and detection system and its basic structure was determined by physical methods. On the basis of biosynthetic considerations, geometric isomers of lipoxin A4 and lipoxin B4 were prepared by total synthesis. Comparison of these synthetic materials with the neutrophil-derived product showed that the new compound is (5S,6R,15S)-trihydroxy-9,11,13-trans-7-cis-eicosatetraenoic acid or the 7-cis-11-trans-isomer of LXA4 (7-cis-11-trans-LXA4). LXA4, 11-trans-LXA4, 7-cis-LXA4 and 7-cis-11-trans-LXA4 all evoked dose-dependent (0.1-10 microM) contractions of the guinea pig lung strip, whereas 6-cis-LXB4 and 6-cis-8-trans-LXB4 relaxed this preparation. LXA4 and 7-cis-LXA4 were approx. 10-times more potent than the compounds with 11-trans geometry. However, all four double-bond isomers of LXA4 caused contractions which, based upon pharmacological evidence, appeared to involve specific activation of the same site as cysteinyl-containing leukotrienes. In conclusion, 7-cis-11-trans-LXA4 was isolated and identified as a novel biologically active eicosanoid formed by human neutrophils.