The role secretory IgM has in protecting splenic tissue from LPS-induced damage was assessed in mice incapable of secreting IgM but able to express surface IgM and IgD. Within seconds after LPS challenge, 99% of the (131)I-labeled LPS was found in the liver and the spleen of both sIgM-deficient and wild-type mice. In the spleen FITC-labeled LPS was found on the surface of 2F8(+) scavenger receptor macrophages localized in the outer marginal zone, while none of the labeled LPS could be detected on marginal zone ER-TR9(+) and MOMA-1(+) macrophages. An additional population of macrophages, MOMA-2(+), were capable of producing C3 locally in the T and B cell zone after LPS challenge. Local C3 production was regulated, as no C3 was found in splenic tissue of unchallenged mice. Interestingly, in the absence of circulating and locally produced secretory IgM, MOMA-2(+) macrophages of the T and B cell zone failed to establish an additional ring of C3-producing macrophages in the outer B cell zone close to the marginal zone upon LPS challenge. The consequence was a massive destruction of the microarchitecture of the spleen where marginal zones disorganized, lymphoid follicles and T cell zones disrupted and follicular DC (FDC) networks disappeared.