We used flow cytometry to determine how LPS-binding protein (LBP) effects the binding of fluorescein-labeled LPS to human monocytes via receptor-dependent mechanisms. The addition of human, rabbit, mouse, or FCS strikingly increased the binding of LPS to monocytes compared with controls incubated in serum-free medium. This binding was totally prevented by preincubation of monocytes with MY4, an anti-CD14 mAb, or by enzymatic removal of CD14 from monocytes. Depletion of LBP from rabbit serum with anti-LBP antibodies also produced a similar suppression. Solutions of albumin did not support the enhanced binding observed in serum but the addition of purified rabbit LBP to albumin solutions resulted in binding similar to that observed in serum-containing medium. When type-specific anti-LPS mAb was added to human serum, LPS binding to monocytes occurred but was only partly inhibited by anti-CD14 mAb, suggesting that receptors other than CD14 (presumably Fc or complement receptors) were involved. Serum increased by 100- to 1000-fold the sensitivity of monocytes to the triggering by LPS resulting in TNF secretion. TNF secretion was inhibited by anti-CD14 mAb up to 100 ng/ml of LPS and by anti-LPS mAb up to 1 to 10 ng/ml. The inhibition of TNF secretion by anti-LPS mAb appeared to be the result of directing LPS to monocyte receptors other than CD14. In contrast, in medium containing normal as well as acute serum and in the absence of anti-LPS antibodies, the binding of LPS to monocytes and the triggering of TNF secretion appeared to be mediated mainly by interactions between CD14 and LBP-LPS complexes.