THP-1 cells are a monocyte-like cell line derived from a patient with acute monocytic leukemia and unlike other leukemic cell lines has a normal diploid karyotype. We have characterized Fc gamma R expression on this cell line by flow cytometry, radiolabeled IgG1 and monoclonal antibody (mAb) binding assays, and biochemical analysis. Flow cytometric analysis of THP-1 cells with anti-Fc gamma RI, II, and III mAb, and a rabbit anti-Fc gamma RIII F(ab')2 demonstrated that only Fc gamma RI and Fc gamma RII are expressed by these cells. A panel of anti-Fc gamma RIII mAb (anti-CD16) failed to bind to THP-1 cells. Biochemical studies identified polypeptides of 64 to 78 kDa (Fc gamma RI) and of 42 to 53 kDa (Fc gamma RII). Fc gamma R expression was determined by binding of radioiodinated human IgG1 (to detect Fc gamma RI), mAb IV.3 (to detect Fc gamma RII), or rabbit IgG immune complexes. Thirty-five thousand high affinity binding sites (dissociation constant [KD] = 4.22 x 10(-9) M) for IgG1 were found on THP-1 cells. Interferon-gamma (IFN gamma) upregulated Fc gamma RI expression by THP-1 cells 2.8-fold, whereas Fc gamma RI on U937 cells was increased six- to eight-fold by this cytokine. Phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha), and vitamin D3 had no effect on IgG1 binding by THP-1 cells. Fifty thousand IgG molecules in immune complexes bound to THP-1 cells. IFN gamma treatment increased this binding by four-fold, PMA treatment resulted in a 50% increase in the number of IgG immune complexes bound, whereas vitamin D3 treated THP-1 cells bound half as many IgG immune complexes as control cells. Binding assays utilizing mAb IV.3 identified 50,000 sites per cell. Treatment of THP-1 cells with IFN gamma, TNF alpha, PMA, or vitamin D3 had no effect on Fc gamma RII expression. That Fc gamma RI plays a predominant role in immune complex binding was demonstrated by inhibition studies. Human IgG1 as well as mouse IgG2a mAb to Fc gamma RII inhibited immune complex binding by 76 to 84%, whereas mouse IgG1 mAb to Fc gamma RII had minimal effect on immune complex binding. Fc gamma R expression may not be linked to differentiation of THP-1 cells since only 1,25 vitamin D3 was able to induce the expression of CD14, a marker of mature monocytic phenotype.