Treatment of the U937 cell line with 1 mM dibutyryl cyclic AMP (Bt2cAMP) resulted in a reduction in cell size and inhibition of DNA synthesis, and morphologically the cells appeared similar to macrophages. Electron micrographs indicated an increase in intracellular apparatus, whilst histochemical studies revealed smaller, denser nuclei and a greater intensity of non-specific esterase staining. Ia-like antigens (HLA-DR and HLA-DC) and complement receptor CR1 were not detected on U937 cells by monoclonal antibodies, nor were they induced by Bt2cAMP. CR3 was present in small amounts on U937 cells, and stimulation with Bt2cAMP increased the expression of this molecule in the cytoplasm and on the cell surface. Leu M3, a monocyte-specific antibody, was weakly reactive on both unstimulated and stimulated cells, whereas transferrin receptors, present on 90% of U937 cells, were lost after 48-hr stimulation with Bt2cAMP. JW6 and NH6, two monoclonal antibodies raised in our laboratory and found to be against immature monocytic antigens, showed decreased expression on stimulation. Monomer IgG binding via Fc receptors decreased on stimulated cells, and a monoclonal antibody (32.2) specific for FcRI confirmed this to be due to a decrease in the number of high-affinity receptors, rather than a decrease in IgG-binding affinity. In contrast, expression of the low-affinity FcRII, monitored by monoclonal antibody IV3, increased dramatically after stimulation. Other functional changes included the production of superoxide anions and the induction of non-specific phagocytosis. Two dimensional gel analysis, of detergent soluble proteins from unstimulated and 48-hr stimulated U937 cells, showed many differences in protein expression. A detailed investigation of these changes will facilitate a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the differentiation of U937 cells.