Using a new Ly-6C-specific antibody (Monts-1) we show that this class of antigens are differentially expressed on monocytes/macrophages and endothelial cells. Recently elicited peritoneal exudate Mac-1+ mononuclear cells, as well as Mac-1+ mononuclear cells in the bone marrow and in the peripheral blood, express high levels of Ly-6C. Ly-6C+ mononuclear Mac-1+ cells are absent in normal uninflamed skin, but are present in high numbers in skin lesions 3 days after the s.c. injection of lipopolysaccharide, concanavalin A or complete Freund's adjuvant. In addition, large Ly-6C+ mononuclear cells are predominant in chronic granulomas induced by complete Freund's adjuvant. Resident macrophages in a variety of tissues express low levels or in many cases do not express Ly-6C. Two out of three monocyte-like cell lines are Ly-6C+, whereas macrophage-like cell lines are negative. Ly-6C+ monocytes/macrophages lose the Ly-6C antigen within 24 h after in vitro culture. Ly-6C- cultured monocytes and Ly-6C- monocyte-like cell lines, but not fully differentiated macrophages and macrophage-like cell lines, can be induced to express the Ly-6C antigen by interferon-gamma. A population of small vessel endothelial cells in diverse tissues also express high levels of Ly-6C. The present findings suggest that the Ly-6C antigen family, shown by others to be involved in T cell activation, may have more general importance in immune responses and cellular differentiation than previously appreciated.