The role of macrophages in the innate immunity of (CBA/N female X DBA/2N male)F1 female mice to Salmonella typhimurium was assessed with silica, an agent which has been reported to selectively inactivate macrophages. Silica, administered intravenously to mice, markedly decreased the phagocytic capacity of splenic macrophages but had no effect on splenic responsiveness to the B-cell mitogen lipopolysaccharidide or the T-cell mitogen phytohemagglutinin, nor did it affect the frequency of surface immunoglobulin-positive cells (B cells). Silica given to mice 1 day before intraperitoneal challenge decreased the 50% lethal dose of S. typhimurium 100-fold. The incidence of survival of mice given silica up to 14 days before infection with a sublethal dose of organisms was also decreased. This susceptibility could also be demonstrated when silica was given 10 days, but not 20 days, after S. typhimurium infection. Poly-2-vinylpyridine-N-oxide, a lysosomal stabilizing agent, abrogated the silica effect. Deaths among silica-treated mice followed uncontrolled multiplication of the organism in the spleen. These results provide direct evidence that macrophages play an essential role in natural immunity to murine typhoid and demonstrate the efficacy of silica as a tool to analyze macrophage function.