To determine if macrophages express receptors for peptide antigens, guinea pig peritoneal exudate cells (PEC) were examined for their uptake of the octapeptide angiotensin II (AII). PEC were incubated with [3H]AII, with or without nonradioactive AII as a cold inhibitor, for varying lengths of time before harvesting to determine the cell-associated [3H]AII counts per minute. The PEC-associated [3H]AII increased from 90 to 120 min of incubation, then plateaued on additional incubation to 3.5 hr. Inclusion of nonradiolabeled AII into the culture decreased the cell-associated [3H]AII by 80 to 90% at all time points. The uptake of [3H]AII was temperature-sensitive, with maximum cell-associated [3H]-AII occurring at 37 degrees C and reduced uptake occurring at 4 degrees C. The association of [3H]AII with PEC was specific and saturable, and the inhibitory dose for reducing the cell-associated [3H]AII by 50% with nonradiolabeled AII was around 6 X 10(-6) M. Various AII analogs were also employed as inhibitors to determine the fine specificity of [3H]AII binding, and only those analogs with nonaromatic amino acid substitutions for the carboxyl terminal Phe8 showed reduced inhibitory activity, indicating that Phe8 is important for binding. Scatchard analysis of binding indicated that two classes of receptors interacted with AII: a low number of receptors with Ka approximately equal to 3.5 X 10(8) M-1, and a large number of relatively low affinity of binding showing a Ka approximately equal to 5 X 10(5) M-1. The cellular binding activity was associated with isolated PEC plasma membranes, and after density gradient fractionation of solubilized membranes, AII binding activity was primarily associated with molecules of m.w. of around 50,000. PEC were separated into macrophages and lymphocytes by adherence, and all of the [3H]AII binding activity was associated with the macrophage-enriched cells. These results show that macrophages express specific receptors for AII and related peptides that are responsible for most of the uptake of AII by macrophages. We discuss the relevance of this receptor for the immunologically important uptake of AII by macrophages, and a potential physiologic role in angiotensin-converting enzyme production.