Elastin-derived peptides, produced by digesting human aortic elastin and bovine ligament elastin with human neutrophil elastase, were tested for chemotactic activity. At 100 μg protein/ml, elastin digests were nearly as active for monocytes as saturating amounts of complement-derived chemotactic activity. Neutrophils and alveolar macrophages showed less response to elastin peptides than did monocytes. Fractionation of the digests by gel filtration chromatography disclosed that maximal chemotactic activity eluted in fractions corresponding to 14,000-20,000 mol wt containing most of the desmosine cross-links in the digests. Whole human serum and rabbit anti-elastin immunoglobulin inhibited the chemotactic activity. Purified desmosine also showed chemotactic activity for monocytes, maximal at 10 nM. These findings suggest that elastin-degradation products enriched in cross-linking regions recruit inflammatory cells in vivo and that elastin proteolysis, characteristic of emphysema, may be a signal for recruitment of mononuclear phagocytes into the lungs.