Adhesion of lymphocytes to endothelial cells (EC) is the requisite first element in the multistep process of transmigration from blood across the postcapillary venules. Selective expression of cell adhesion molecules (CM) by microvascular EC in lymphoid organs (e.g., lymph nodes) and during tissue inflammation modulates this traffic in a site-directed manner. CAM synthesis by EC is regulated in turn by cytokines released in the local microenvironment. Studies done largely with human umbilical vein EC have implicated IL-1, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha as cytokines which promote leukocyte adhesion to EC. In the work reported here, the responses of cultured microvascular EC derived from macaque lymph nodes to IL-1beta, IL-2, IFN-gamma, and IL-4 were examined. Increases in lymphocyte adhesion after preculture of microvascular EC in IL-1beta or IFN-gamma were typically 2-to 4-fold above controls and comparable to those reported for human umbilical vein EC. IL-2 had no effect. In contrast, IL-4 markedly enhanced adhesion to microvascular EC. IL-4-induced adhesion was observed as early as 4 h after induction, plateaued by 24 h, was stable through 72 h of culture, but decayed to basal levels within 72 h after removal of IL-4 from the cultures. IL-1beta, but not IL-2 or IFN-gamma, synergistically enhanced the action of IL-4 on cultured microvascular EC to promote lymphocyte binding. Adhesion triggered in this manner required de novo protein synthesis. However, the avidity of IL-4-activated microvascular EC for lymphocytes, and analyses of kinetics, cation and temperature dependence, and/or lack of blockade with mAb to endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1, intra-cellular adhesion molecule-1, and MECA-79 indicated that these CAM were not central to the phenomenon. To aid identification of the relevant CAM, mAb specific to IL-4-induced microvascular EC were produced. One of these, 6G10, blocked up to 90% of lymphocyte adhesion to IL-4-induced microvascular EC, immunoprecipitated an IL-4-induced cell-surface molecule of 110-kDa molecular mass, and reacted specifically with Chinese hamster ovary cells transfected with human vascular cell adhesion molecule-1. Our results suggest that IL-4 may have potent effects on lymphocyte recirculation in vivo.