The mechanism by which LPS stimulates an acute phase serum amyloid A (SAA) response in C3H mice has been studied. A factor (SAA inducer) appears in the blood of C3H/HeN (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]-sensitive) mice approximately 1 h after administration of LPS, which, when passively administered, can induce C3H/HeJ mice to produce SAA although they are resistant to the LPS itself. SAA inducer has been detected in the culture medium of LPS treated C3H/HeN macrophages but not spleen cells. Thus, two stages in the induction of the acute phase SAA response are now recognized: a latent period of 2-3 h during which the SAA concentration remains at baseline values and in which SAA inducer appears, and the period of synthesis of SAA which lasts for approoximately 24 h past induction. It is proposed that a macrophage response to LPS is responsible for production of the serum mediator which induces SAA synthesis.