Macrophages are professional phagocytic cells that orchestrate innate immune responses and have considerable phenotypic diversity at different anatomical locations. However, the mechanisms that control the heterogeneity of tissue macrophages are not well characterized. Here we found that the nuclear receptor LXRα was essential for the differentiation of macrophages in the marginal zone (MZ) of the spleen. LXR-deficient mice were defective in the generation of MZ and metallophilic macrophages, which resulted in abnormal responses to blood-borne antigens. Myeloid-specific expression of LXRα or adoptive transfer of wild-type monocytes restored the MZ microenvironment in LXRα-deficient mice. Our results demonstrate that signaling via LXRα in myeloid cells is crucial for the generation of splenic MZ macrophages and identify an unprecedented role for a nuclear receptor in the generation of specialized macrophage subsets.