Neutrophil chemotactic protein (NCP) is a rabbit CXC chemokine with activating and chemotactic properties on neutrophilic granulocytes. Although its selective activity on neutrophils is demonstrated, its interactions with specific chemokine receptors are not defined. For further functional characterization, NCP was chemically synthesized and was found to be equipotent as natural NCP in neutrophil chemotaxis. To identify its human homologue, we separately expressed two potential rabbit NCP receptors (CXCR1 and CXCR2) in Jurkat cells. Pure synthetic NCP was equally efficient to promote chemotaxis through either rabbit CXCR1 or CXCR2. Moreover, chemotaxis assays on rabbit CXCR1 and CXCR2 transfectants showed that NCP uses the same receptors as interleukin-8 (IL-8), a major rabbit CXC chemokine, but not rabbit GROalpha, which only recognized CXCR2. In addition, specific inhibitors for CXCR1 or CXCR2 reduced rabbit neutrophil chemotaxis induced by NCP and rabbit IL-8. Furthermore, NCP and the structurally related human CXCR1/CXCR2 agonist CXCL6/GCP-2 (granulocyte chemotactic protein-2) cross-desensitized each other in intracellular calcium release assays on human neutrophils, further indicating that both chemokines share the same receptors. The inflammatory role of NCP was also evidenced by its potent granulocytosis inducing capacity in rabbits upon systemic administration. This study provides in vitro and in vivo evidences that NCP is the functional rabbit homologue for human CXCL6/GCP-2 rather than the most related CXCR2 agonist CXCL5/ENA-78 (epithelial cell-derived neutrophil activating peptide-78). It is concluded that the rabbit is a better model to study human neutrophil activation compared to mice, which lack CXCL8/IL-8.