Peritoneal macrophages from C3H/HeN mice treated i.p. with T cell mitogens or viable BCG organisms were cytotoxic to syngeneic tumor cells in vitro. Macrophages from endotoxin-unresponsive C3H/HeJ mice treated with BCG or T cell mitogens, however, were not tumoricidal. Furthermore, unlike cells from C3H/HeN mice, macrophages from C3H/HeJ mice could not be activated for tumor cytotoxicity after in vitro treatment with bacterial endotoxins or with lymphokine-rich supernatants. The subnormal induction of cytotoxic macrophages after in vitro or in vivo treatments in C3H/HeJ mice appears to be a highly selective defect. Macrophage responses (yield, phagocytosis, or peroxidase staining) in inflammatory exudates induced by BCG, T cell mitogens, or heterologous serum in C3H/HeJ or C3H/HeN mice were identical. C3H/HeJ macrophages also responded normally in vitro to chemotactic lymphokines. Thus, C3H/HeJ macrophages possess a profound and selective defect in tumoricidal capacity. This defect was not dependent upon exogenous endotoxins. Defective macrophage cytotoxic responses may reflect non-LPS related functions regulated by the LPS gene.