Follicular dendritic cell (FDC)-FcgammaRIIB levels are up-regulated 1-3 days after challenge of actively immunized mice with Ag. This kinetics suggested that memory cells are not driving this response, prompting the hypothesis that immune complex (IC)-FDC interactions lead to FDC activation. To test this, mice passively immunized with anti-OVA Ab were OVA challenged to produce IC. After 3 days, levels of IC, FcgammaRIIB, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1 on FDC were analyzed. FDC were also stimulated with IC in vitro, and mRNA for FcgammaRIIB, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1 was quantified by quantitative RT-PCR. IC labeling in passively immunized WT and FcgammaRIIB-/- mice revealed five to six FDC-reticula per LN midsagittal section. In WT mice, these IC-bearing FDC-reticula corresponded with FDC-reticula labeling for FcgammaRIIB, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1. Increases in these molecules on IC-stimulated FDC were confirmed by flow cytometry. In marked contrast, in FcgammaRIIB-/- mice, no increased VCAM-1 or ICAM-1 was seen on IC-bearing FDC-reticula or on purified FDC. Addition of IC in vitro resulted in dramatic increases in mRNA for FcgammaRIIB, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 in WT FDC, but not in FDC from FcgammaRIIB-/- mice, 2.4G2-pretreated WT FDC, B cells, or macrophages. Thus, although FDC-FcgammaRIIB was not essential for IC trapping, engagement of FDC-FcgammaRIIB with IC initiated an FDC activation pathway.