C3H/HeJ mice are hyporesponsive to the biologic effects of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and their splenic B cells do not proliferate after exposure to LPS. The molecular basis of this hyporesponsiveness is unknown but it may result from defective membrane signal transduction after LPS binding. To examine this possibility, we added bioactive compounds in combination with LPS to C3H/HeJ B cell cultures in order to bypass the putative defect. The addition of PMA, monensin, or ionomycin, either alone or in combination, had no effect on C3H/HeJ B cell responses to LPS. In contrast, the addition of trypsin together with LPS resulted in a partial restoration of the proliferative response in C3H/HeJ splenic B lymphocytes. The maximal C3H/HeJ B cell response varied from 25 to 60% of the C3Heb/FeJ (LPS responder) B cell response. The trypsin-mediated enhancement of the LPS response was abrogated by pretreatment of the trypsin with the trypsin inhibitors DFP or TLCK. Pretreatment of the LPS with polymyxin B, which blocks lipid A-dependent reactions, also abrogated the trypsin effect. Because the C3H/HeJ B cell responds to all other B cell mitogens, we suggest that the defect is in an LPS-specific step and that the action of trypsin results in the restoration of the missing signal. At the present time the identity of this signal is not known, but the experiments described in this report provide a unique model to elucidate the basis of LPS hyporesponsiveness in splenic B cells from C3H/HeJ mice.