The mechanisms by which adherent cells, presumably of mononuclear phagocytic lineage, influence in vitro antigen-specific activation of murine T lymphocytes was examined. Two distinct functions for macrophages could be discerned. One macrophage function is dependent on a soluble factor produced by cultured adherent cells and is most easily studied with complex multideterminant antigens. This factor is neither antigen-specific nor MHC-restricted in its action in that PEC, regardless of haplotype, produce factor in the absence of antigen. A second function, antigen-specific T cell activation, is seen when antigens of more restricted heterogeneity are used, such as those under the control of Ir genes. This latter activity demands identity or partial identity between the antigen-presenting cell and the primed T cell, thus suggesting an additional specific, genetically restricted function for macrophages in in vitro antigen recognition. Whether these adherent cell functions are mediated by all or distinct subsets of cells was not established.