In macrophages of higher vertebrates, Fc receptors and receptors for complement and other serum factors, are generally known to enhance the phagocytic process. In lower vertebrates like salmonid fishes, none of these or other phagocytic receptors have been thoroughly characterized. The purpose of this study was to elucidate to what extent these and other receptors are involved in the process of phagocytosis in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) head kidney macrophages. We used tosyl activated, paramagnetic dynabeads (2.8 microm in diameter), specifically coated with 125I labeled Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) IgM or bovine serum albumin (BSA) as phagocytic probes. The effect of complement opsonization was also investigated by incubating the beads in serum. Our results indicate that neither the Fc- nor the complement-receptor(s) were important for phagocytosis of these beads. Our data support the idea that scavenger receptors are involved in phagocytosis in rainbow trout head kidney macrophages, as the use of a competitive scavenger receptor ligand extensively decreased degradation of the labeled protein coat on the beads.