The nature of the binding sites for LPS on human monocytes was investigated using [3H] labeled intact LPS from Neisseria meningitidis and from Salmonella minnesota R7, and the [3H] labeled purified inner core region (PS-OMe) of S.m. R7 LPS. In the presence of serum, intact LPS from enterobacterial and nonenterobacterial strains bound to monocytes in a dose-dependent, saturable, and displaceable fashion. N.m. LPS and LPS from the enterobacterial strain of Escherichia coli 0111-B4 bound to the same sites on monocytes as assessed in competitive binding experiments. Specific binding of intact LPS to monocytes occurred through the CD14 molecule as shown by the ability of mAb and of F(ab')2 fragments of mAb directed against specific epitopes of CD14 to inhibit the binding of [3H]-LPS to cells and by the lack of binding of intact LPS to CD14-deficient cells from patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Specific binding of LPS to monocytes was not mediated by the CD11/CD18 complex because mAb to the alpha and beta chains of the Leu-CAM molecules did not alter the binding of LPS to cells and because LPS did not inhibit the binding of labeled mAb to monocytes. [3H]-PS-OMe also bound in a dose-dependent and displaceable fashion to monocytes involving an unidentified, non-CD14, binding site on the cells. Binding of LPS to monocytes also involved nonsaturable binding sites for hydrophobic structures of LPS as evidenced in binding experiments performed in the absence of serum. These observations indicate that intact LPS may interact with the monocyte membrane in at least three ways including serum-dependent binding to CD14 and to a lectin-like receptor, and serum-independent hydrophobic interactions.