The mechanisms by which chemokines bind and signal through their receptors are complex and poorly understood. In the present study, we sought to dissect these processes and to map important functional domains of the two CXC chemokine (interleukin-8) receptors, CXCR1 (formally IL-8RA) and CXCR2 (formally IL-8RB), using blocking monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to the receptors and a series of chimeras between CXCR1 and CXCR2. A panel of specific mAbs against CXCR1 or CXCR2, generated by immunizing mice with transfectants expressing either receptor, were shown to effectively block IL- 8- and/or growth-related oncogene α (GROα) -mediated ligand binding, chemotaxis, elastase release, and VCAM-1 binding in CXCR1 and CXCR2 transfectants and/or human neutrophils. Of particular interest was an anti- CXCR1 mAb, 7D9, that inhibited chemotaxis, elastase release, and VCAM-1 binding but had no detectable effects on ligand binding. The epitopes of these blocking mAbs were mapped by using a series of CXCR1/2 chimera transfectants and synthetic peptides. Most of the anti-CXCR1 antibodies, except 7D9, mapped to the amino acid sequence WDFDDL (CXCR1 residues 10-15), and all the anti-CXCR2 antibodies mapped to the amino acid sequence FEDFW (CXCR2 residues 6-10). The epitope of mAb 7D9 mainly involved a region within the first 45 residues of CXCR1, and it appeared to be conformation- sensitive. These results support a model in which the binding and signaling of IL-8 with its receptor occur in at least two discrete steps involving distinct domains of the receptor. This model is consistent with the notion that discrete conformational changes of the receptor secondary to ligand binding are required to trigger various biological responses. Moreover, the ligand binding and chemotaxis properties of each CXCR1/2 chimeric receptor to IL-8 and GROα were determined. It was found that each is distinct in its ability to confer ligand binding and chemotactic response to IL-8 and GROα, and two conclusions could be made. 1) The N-terminal segment of CXCR1 is a dominant determinant of receptor subtype selectivity, consistent with previous studies using rabbit/human CXCR1/2 chimeras; and 2) the specificity determinant for GROα binding in CXCR2 involves sequences in the N terminus, distal to the first 15 residues, as well as other parts of the receptor.