Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) derived from Bacteroides fragilis has been reported to stimulate mitogenic responses in spleen cell cultures from the classical LPS-hyporesponsive C3H/HeJ mouse strain; however, we have shown that purified splenic B cells from C3H/HeJ mice are hyporesponsive to phenol-water extracted LPS from B. fragilis ATCC 25285 (B-LPS). In the present study, B-LPS and its purified lipid A and polysaccharide components were tested for their ability to induce mitogenic and polyclonal IgM synthesis in spleen cell and purified splenic B cell cultures from classical LPS-responsive and -hyporesponsive mice. Mitogenic responses to B-LPS and E. coli K235 LPS(Ph) of whole spleen cells (2 x 105 cells/culture) or purified B cells (5 x 105 cells/culture) from classical LPS-responsive mouse strains (C3H/HeN, BALB/c, C57BL/6J, C57BL/10Sn, and DBA/2), F1 mice (derived from crosses between LPS-responsive and C3H/HeJ mice), and classical LPS-hyporesponsive mice (C3H/HeJ and C57BL/10ScN) were high, intermediate, and low, respectively. When a higher number of whole spleen cells (5 x 105 cells/well) were cultured, B-LPS induced high mitogenic responses in C3H/HeN, intermediate responses in F1, and lower but significant responses in C3H/HeJ cultures. Similar results were obtained when polyclonal IgM synthesis was assessed in cultures containing 1 x 106 cells/culture. In contrast, the purified lipid A component of B-LPS failed to induce mitogenic responses in either whole spleen or purified B cell cultures. The addition of purified splenic B cells from C3H/HeJ mice to C3H/HeN or C3H/HeJ splenic adherent cells resulted in mitogenic responses to B-LPS, implying that the hyporesponsiveness to B-LPS seen in whole spleen cell cultures from C3H/HeJ mice at the lower cell concentration was due to limiting numbers of Mφ. When splenic B cells and Mφ from either C3H/HeN or C3H/HeJ mice were incubated with the lipid A or the polysaccharide moiety of B-LPS, lipid A induced mitogenic responses only in C3H/HeN cultures, whereas the polysaccharide moiety induced similar responses in both C3H/HeN and C3H/HeJ cultures. These results suggest that Bacteroides lipid A does not stimulate B cells from the classical LPS-hyporesponsive C3H/HeJ mouse strain, whereas the polysaccharide moiety of B-LPS is biologically active and mediates B cell stimulation via Mφ.