MARCO is the predominant scavenger receptor for recognition and binding of silica particles by alveolar macrophages (AM). Previously, it was shown that mice null for MARCO have a greater inflammatory response to silica, but the mechanism was not described. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between MARCO and NLRP3 inflammasome activity. Silica increased NLRP3 inflammasome activation and release of the proinflammatory cytokine, IL-1β, to a greater extent in MARCO-/- AM compared to wild type (WT) AM. Furthermore, in MARCO-/- AM there was greater cathepsin B release from phagolysosomes, Caspase-1 activation, and acid sphingomyelinase activity compared to WT AM, supporting the critical role played by lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) in triggering silica-induced inflammation. The difference in sensitivity to LMP appears to be in cholesterol recycling since increasing cholesterol in AM by treatment with U18666A decreased silica-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation, and cells lacking MARCO were less able to sequester cholesterol following silica treatment. Taken together, these results demonstrate that MARCO contributes to normal cholesterol uptake in macrophages; therefore, in the absence of MARCO, macrophages are more susceptible to a greater inflammatory response by particulates known to cause NLRP3 inflammasome activation and the effect is due to increased LMP.