In vitro treatment of mouse peritoneal cells (mixture of adherent and nonadherent cells) with lysophosphatidylcholine (lyso-Pc) in 10% FCS supplemented medium RPMI 1640 results in a greatly enhanced FcR-mediated phagocytic activity of macrophages. This macrophage-activation process requires a serum factor. Fractionation studies with starch block electrophoresis of fetal calf and human sera revealed that alpha 2-globulin fraction contains a serum factor essential for macrophage activation. To identify the serum factor, human serum was precipitated with 50% saturated ammonium sulfate and fractionated on a Sephadex G-100 column. A protein fraction with a lower m.w. than albumin had the capacity to support activation of macrophages. The active serum factor in this protein fraction was analyzed by immunoabsorption by using rabbit antisera against three major proteins of human alpha 2-globulin. This active serum factor was shown to be a vitamin D3-binding protein (group specific component, Gc). By using a monoclonal anti-Gc-absorbed active column fraction of human serum, we observed no enhanced macrophage activation over the results with serum fraction-free cultivation of lyso-Pc-treated peritoneal cells. Cultivation of lyso-Pc-treated peritoneal cells in a medium containing a low concentration of purified human Gc protein (0.1 to 2.6 ng/ml) produced a greatly enhanced phagocytic activity of macrophages. When purified human Gc protein was used in a serum-free medium for stepwise cultivation of lyso-Pc-treated nonadherent cell types, a macrophage-activating factor was efficiently generated. Therefore, it is concluded that the vitamin D3-binding protein is the essential serum factor for the lyso-Pc-primed activation of macrophages.

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