We have investigated the effects of LPS and PMA on the expression of functional mannose receptors in rat bone marrow-derived macrophages. After 48 h of treatment with LPS (10 ng/ml) and PMA (100 nM), mannose receptor activity was reduced by 70 to 80%. The effect of these agents on receptor activity was not reversible, and activity continued to decline after the agents were removed. Pretreatment of cells with dexamethasone was effective in blocking the LPS/PMA-induced down-regulation. Serine protease inhibitors did not block the reduction in receptor activity, suggesting that proteolysis is not involved in receptor down-regulation. LPS/PMA treatment did not increase turnover of the receptor. Ligand uptake studies showed that the total capacity of the uptake system was reduced by 80%, although the Kuptake was unaffected. Binding of 125I-mannose-BSA to intact macrophages showed a 70% decrease in surface receptor activity after treatment with LPS/PMA. LPS/PMA treatment had no effect on total receptor synthesis as quantitated by immunoprecipitation of metabolically labeled receptor. However, binding of metabolically labeled receptor to mannose-Sepharose, and binding of 125I-mannose-BSA to immunoprecipitated receptor revealed that intracellular plus surface binding sites were reduced to approximately 30% after LPS/PMA treatment. These results suggest that LPS/PMA treatment of macrophages results in an inactivation of mannose receptors with no effect on receptor turnover or biosynthesis.