We investigated the role of the opsonic glycoprotein fibronectin in the host defense of the peritoneum in patients undergoing continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). Fibronectin concentration in peritoneal dialysate from high infection rate CAPD patients (greater than 1.50 episodes peritonitis per year) was significantly less than from low infection rate CAPD patients (less than 0.55 episodes peritonitis per year). In vitro secretion of fibronectin by cultured peritoneal macrophages from patients with high infection rate was less than from low infection rate patients (P less than 0.05) and controls (P less than 0.01). In vitro secretion of the second component of complement, however, was similar in both high and low infection rate patients. Plasma fibronectin concentration and in vitro fibronectin secretion by cultured peripheral blood monocytes was not different between high infection rate patients and low infection rate patients, but was less than normals. Decreased fibronectin secretion by peritoneal macrophages is associated with a higher incidence of peritonitis among CAPD patients.