The purpose of this study was to determine the role of host macrophages in the development of allospecific cytolytic T cells (allo-CTLs) in response to purified allogeneic MHC Class I+, Class II- hepatocytes in vivo in hepatocyte sponge matrix allografts (HC-SMA). Depletion of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) from responder splenocytes in mixed lymphocyte hepatocyte culture (MLHC) inhibits the development of allo-CTLs in response to purified hepatocytes. First the ability of sponge macrophages to function as accessory cells in indirect presentation of hepatocyte Class I antigen was tested in MLHC. We found that addition of irradiated sponge cells (a source of sponge macrophages) restored the development of allo-CTLs in MLHC depleted of responder APCs. Therefore, radioresistant sponge macrophages can function as accessory cells in MLHC. We next employed silica as an immunotherapy targeted against host macrophages and assessed the effect on development of allo-CTLs in HCSMA. We found that local (intrasponge) silica treatment completely inhibited the development of allo-CTLs in HCSMA. Combined local and systemic silica treatment resulted in inhibition of allocytotoxicity comparable to local silica treatment alone in the doses tested. We conclude that host macrophages which infiltrate HC-SMA can function as accessory cells in vitro in MLHC and that both infiltrating host macrophages and lymphocytes participate in the development of an alloimmune response to purified hepatocytes in vivo. This interaction may involve indirect antigen presentation of hepatocyte Class I antigen by macrophages to host lymphocytes which accumulate in HC-SMA.