Peritoneal macrophages from the endotoxin-unresponsive C3H/HeJ substrain of mice were entirely refractory to activation in vitro by protein-free LPS, a defect that was not overcome by co-culture of spleen cells from the responder C3H/St substrain with LPS resistant C3H/HeJ macrophages. The defect in responsiveness appears confined to the lipid A activation signal since C3H/HeJ macrophages were fully activated after in vitro treatment by lipid A protein (LAP)—LPS complex, isolated LAP, and BCG. Moreover, after exposure to allogeneic tumor cells in vivo, C3H/HeJ macrophages were cytotoxic for tumor target cells in vitro. By contrast, macrophages from the responder C3H/St strain were fully activated by protein-free LPS to become cytolytic for tumor cells in vitro. C3H/HeJ macrophages, therefore, exhibit a highly selective defect characterized by unresponsiveness to the lipid A activation signal of protein-free LPS and resistance to the toxic effects of high concentrations of LPS that were lethal to the responder C3H/St strain.

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This work was supported by Grant IT 32 HL 07195-01 from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

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