Bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) causes fatal shock in humans and experimental animals. The shock is mediated by cytokines released by direct LPS stimulation of cells of monocytic origin (monocyte/macrophage [MO]). Recent studies have supported the concept that the plasma protein, LPS binding protein (LBP), plays an important role in controlling MO responses to LPS. Specifically, evidence has been presented to suggest that CD14, a membrane protein present in MO, serves as a receptor for complexes of LPS and the plasma protein LPS binding protein (LBP). In this function CD14 mediates attachment of LPS-bearing particles opsonized with LBP and appears to play an important role in regulating cytokine production induced by complexes of LPS and LBP. The CD14-, murine pre-B cell line 70Z/3 responds to LPS by synthesis of kappa light chains and consequent expression of surface IgM. To better understand the role of CD14 in controlling cellular responses to LPS, we investigated the effect of transfection of CD14 into 70Z/3 cells on LPS responsiveness. We report here that transfection of human or rabbit CD14 cDNA into 70Z/3 cells results in membrane expression of a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored CD14. When LPS is complexed with LBP, CD14-bearing 70Z/3 cells bind more LPS than do the parental or 70Z/3 cells transfected with vector only. Remarkably, the expression of CD14 lowers the amount of LPS required to stimulate surface IgM expression by up to 10,000-fold when LPS dose-response curves in the CD14-, parental and CD14-bearing, transfected 70Z/3 cells are compared. In contrast, the response of CD14-bearing 70Z/3 cells and the parental 70Z/3 cell line (CD14-) to interferon gamma is indistinguishable. LPS stimulation of the parental and CD14-bearing 70Z/3 cells results in activation of NF-kB. These data provide evidence to support the concept that the LPS receptor in cells that constitutively express CD14 may be a multiprotein complex containing CD14 and membrane protein(s) common to a diverse group of LPS-responsive cells.