Large numbers of macrophages can be found in an animal's uteroplacental unit. This high concentration of macrophages suggests they must play an important role during placental development. To gain a better understanding of the functional capacity of placental macrophages, we have obtained a highly enriched placental macrophage culture and have derived several cell lines from this population. Both placental macrophages and cell lines show colony-stimulating factor 1-dependent growth, express Fc receptors, and can perform Fc-receptor-mediated phagocytosis. In addition, they express macrophage markers Mac-1, F4/80, and CD14. Although placental macrophages express major histocompatibility complex class II molecules constitutively, they display a decreased ability to present protein antigens to T cells. Since primary fetal liver macrophages of the same gestational stage also show a decreased ability to present antigens, this phenomenon may reflect a developmental stage of macrophages.