Because of their paternal antigens, the fetus and placenta may be considered an allograft in the maternal host. Local properties of the maternal-fetal interface, the placenta and decidua basalis, are important in preventing maternal immunologic rejection of the fetoplacental allograft. However, the exact nature of these local properties remains a fundamental unsolved problem in immunology. We now report that three macrophage functions were inhibited by the substratum formed by monolayers of decidual stromal cells via a novel pathway. Solid-phase inhibitors blocked macrophage adhesion, spreading, and lysis of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-resistant P815 mastocytoma tumor cells. Inhibition was not solely attributable to an inability of macrophages to adhere to decidual substratum because there were differences in macrophage functions on this surface versus polyhema where no adherence occurred. Because macrophages play a central role in cell-mediated immunity, including allograft rejection, inhibiting their function in the decidua basalis may help prevent maternal antifetal responses.