The immunopotentiating effect of the roots of Astragalus membranaceus, a medicinal herb, has been associated with its polysaccharide fractions (Astragalus polysaccharides, APS). We herein demonstrate that APS activates mouse B cells and macrophages, but not T cells, in terms of proliferation or cytokine production. Fluorescence-labeled APS (fl-APS) was able to selectively stain murine B cells, macrophages and a also human tumor cell line, THP-1, as determined in flow cytometric analysis and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The specific binding of APS to B cells and macrophages was competitively inhibited by bacterial lipopolysaccharides. Rabbit-anti-mouse immunoglobulin (Ig) antibody was able to inhibit APS-induced proliferation of, and APS binding to, mouse B cells. Additionally, APS effectively stimulated the proliferation of splenic B cells from C3H/HeJ mice that have a mutated TLR4 molecule incapable of signal transduction. These results indicate that APS activates B cells via membrane Ig in a TLR4-independent manner. Interestingly, macrophages from C3H/HeJ mice were unable to respond to APS stimulation, suggesting a positive involvement of the TLR4 molecule in APS-mediated macrophage activation. Monoclonal Ab against mouse TLR4 partially inhibited APS binding with macrophages, implying direct interaction between APS and TLR4 on cell surface. These results may have important implications for our understanding on the molecular mechanisms of immunopotentiating polysaccharides from medicinal herbs.