Fibroblasts are the predominant cell type responsible for the synthesis of collagen and other matrix elements in normal and fibrotic lungs. We have previously reported that human lung fibroblasts are heterogeneous in C1q binding and that subpopulations differing in C1q binding can be isolated and subcultured. We have investigated the distribution of receptors for C1q-collagen domain (cC1q-R) and globular domain (gC1q-R) in adult human lung fibroblasts. Fibroblasts were isolated from cultures of adult human lung explants in medium containing fresh- or heated plasma-derived human sera and separated by FACS-cell sorting into populations binding to C1q with high- (HF) and low- (LF) fluorescence. The cC1q-R was obtained from fibroblast membrane preparations by affinity chromatography through an anti-cC1q-R antibody column and its distribution was determined by Western analysis. The presence of gC1q-R was determined by immunoblots using an anti-gC1q-R antibody raised against a synthetic peptide. The results showed that a 54 kD protein crossreacting with anti-cC1q-R antibody was produced by LF cells, but it was barely detectable in HF cultures. Immunostaining with anti-cC1q-R antibody revealed that most of the cells in LF cultures were positive while the HF cells were negative. A 38 kD protein recognized by anti-gC1q-R antibody was produced by lung fibroblasts; however, no differences were detected in its distribution between LF and HF cultures. SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of membrane proteins binding to an affinity column of C1q-globular fragment showed that the HF cultures contain a approximately 51 kD protein, which was a minor component in LF membranes. These data show that cC1q-R is expressed predominantly by a population of human lung fibroblasts, while the 38 kD gC1q-R is produced by all cells. Another 51 kD protein appears to be produced by a separate population of fibroblasts which does not express cC1q-R. Our results indicate that two lung fibroblast subtypes may be distinguished based on production of the 54 kD putative cC1q-R and another 51 kD protein which binds to C1q-globular domain.