Human peripheral blood monocytes have been found to undergo a transitory state of high accessory activity before they fully become macrophages. Time kinetics were done to follow this accessory potential. Studying the regulation of accessory activity, we have found that monocyte-derived accessory cells (m-AC) pass through two phases of development, which both are adversely controlled by cyclic nucleotides. Phase I is positively correlated by intracellular cAMP increase and can be arrested by adenosine 3';5' cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) and synergystic agents. In addition to cAMP, non-cyclic adenine nucleotides and adenosine also mimic all cAMP effects. This behavior is explained by the known presence of surface 5' nucleotidase and adenosine receptor, which in turn leads to activation of adenylate cyclase. At phase II serum is required to convert m-AC into macrophages. In the absence of serum, cells were arrested in the m-AC state. Adenine nucleotides effectively counteract the serum induction leading to the development of m-AC even in the presence of serum. Monocyte/macrophage markers such as Fc receptors and non-specific esterase strictly correlate negatively with the expression of accessory activity. Morphologically, the appearance of veils positively correlates with all experimental situations of high accessory activity. Therefore, it is evident that serum contains regulatory factors that strongly modify the accessory potency of the m-AC via the cyclic nucleotide system, thus presenting a potent immunoregulatory principle at the beginning of the immune cascade.