Brief exposure of culture-derived human macrophages to laminin, a glycoprotein component of all mammalian basement membranes that has a molecular weight of 1,000,000, led to enhancement of subsequent macrophage phagocytosis of EAC4b, EAC3bi, and EAIgG (sheep erythrocytes sensitized with IgG anti-Forssman antibody). This effect on macrophage phagocytosis occurred with both substrate-adherent and fluid phase laminin. Preincubation of macrophages, but not of EAC4b, with laminin led to augmentation of phagocytosis, suggesting that interaction with the phagocytic cell, but not with the opsonized particle, was required for laminin's effect. Laminin-stimulated phagocytosis of EAC4b was blocked entirely by a monoclonal antibody to CR1. Direct comparison of the phagocytic ability of macrophages adherent to laminin- and fibronectin-coated glass slides showed that fibronectin had a somewhat greater enhancing effect on phagocytosis. Nonetheless, the phagocytosis-enhancing effect of laminin was not due to contamination of the purified laminin preparation by fibronectin, since the laminin preparation was free of fibronectin, as determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; in addition, laminin-enhanced phagocytosis was decreased in the presence of laminin-specific antibodies. Laminin inhibited macrophage adherence and spreading, but selection of a laminin-binding macrophage subpopulation could not account for the laminin-induced increases in phagocytosis. We hypothesize that interaction with extracellular matrix proteins may represent an important activation stimulus both to the macrophages normally present in the extravascular compartment and to the phagocytic cells that have emigrated from the blood-stream into areas of inflammation.