Concentrations of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as low as 1 ng/ml suppressed the activity of the scavenger receptor on cultured human monocyte-macrophages. In contrast, concentrations of LPS as high as 100 ng/ml had no effect on the activity of the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor. LPS and purified forms of the lipid A moiety of LPS were effective in suppressing scavenger receptor activity. However, acid hydrolysis of the labile phosphate group of the native diphosphorylated lipid A to form monophosphoryl lipid A rendered the molecule ineffective in suppressing scavenger receptor activity. LPS at a concentration of 100 ng/ml had no effect on the secretion of apolipoprotein E, phagocytic activity, tumoricidal activity, or the protein content of monocyte-macrophages. We conclude that the active component of LPS that mediates suppression of scavenger receptor activity is diphosphoryl lipid A.