Macrophages were activated by administration of lysophosphatidylcholine (lyso-Pc) or dodecylglycerol (DDG) to wild-type rats but not in osteopetrotic (op) mutant rats. In vitro treatment of wild-type rat peritoneal cells with lyso-Pc or DDG efficiently activated macrophages whereas treatment of op mutant rat peritoneal cells with lyso-Pc or DDG did not activate macrophages. The inflammation-primed macrophage activation cascade in rats requires participation of B lymphocytes and vitamin D binding protein (DBP). Lyso-Pc-inducible beta-galactosidase of wild-type rat B lymphocytes can convert DBP to the macrophage-activating factor (MAF), whereas B lymphocytes of the op mutant rats were shown to be deficient in lyso-Pc-inducible beta-galactosidase. DBP is conserved among mammalian species. Treatment of human DBP (Gc1 protein) with commercial glycosidases yields an extremely high titrated MAF as assayed on mouse and rat macrophages. Because the enzymatically generated MAF (GcMAF) bypasses the role of lymphocytes in macrophage activation, the op mutant rat macrophages were efficiently activated by administration of a small quantity (100 pg/rat) of GcMAF. Likewise, in vitro treatment of op rat peritoneal cells with as little as 40 pg GcMAF/ml activated macrophages.