Four murine monocyte, myelomonocyte, and histiocyte or macrophage tumor cell lines adapted to culture were growth inhibited by one or more of the following macrophage-activating substances: Mycobacterium bovis, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin strain, zymosan, lipopolysaccharide, and dextran sulfate, as well as tuberculin purified protein derivative, but not latex beads. Lipopolysaccharide was effective with one line at 4 ng/ml. All four lines actively phagocytosed zymosan and latex beads. In many cases the growth inhibition was apparently immediate but only cytostatic, and cell proliferation resumed upon removal of the drug. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, live or boiled, was toxic to some of the tumor lines. Synthesis of lysozyme by all the cell lines in the monocyte series and production of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor by the myelomonocytic leukemia were not inhibited during several days of zero growth conditions in the presence of drugs. Since these agents had no direct effect on other hematopoietic tumor types (myeloma, T-lymphoma, mastocytoma) at the same or up to 10(4) higher concentrations, it is proposed that the sensitive tumors retain specific receptors for immunostimulants, either at the cell surface or within the cell in the case of phagocytosable particles. The binding of these agents to physiological receptors leads to stimulation and mitogenesis in normal macrophages and lymphocytes but leads to growth inhibition without affecting differenetiated functions in the corresponding tumor lines.