HIV infection of monocytes resulted in twofold elevation of adhesion molecule LFA-1 (both alpha L/CD11a and beta 2/CD18 subunits) and LFA-3 (CD58), with no apparent increase in LFA-2 (CD2) or various beta 1-integrins. Homotypic aggregation of monocytes was evident 2 h after exposure to virus and was inhibited by mAbs to both the alpha L- and beta 2-subunits of LFA-1. HIV-infected monocytes also showed a marked increase in adherence to human capillary endothelial cell monolayers derived from brain, lung, and skin. This adherence was inhibited by mAb to either LFA-1 subunit and by mAb to the counter-receptor intercellular adhesion molecule-1. Cocultivation of HIV-infected monocytes with endothelial cells increased permeability of endothelial cell monolayers to 125I albumin in transwell assay systems. The increased endothelial permeability induced by HIV-infected monocytes was associated with a substantial disruption of the endothelial cell monolayer. Morphologic disruption was not a direct toxic effect on endothelial cells, but appeared to be secondary to changes in endothelial cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions. Northern blot analysis showed increased expression of gelatinase B (92-kDa gelatinase), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase TIMP-1, and TIMP-2 in the HIV-infected monocytes. Consistent with these Northern analyses, secretion of gelatinase activity in culture fluids of HIV-infected monocytes was also increased and was dependent on the stage of virus replication. Incubation of HIV-infected monocytes with the proteinase inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 inhibited the increased permeability of endothelial cell monolayers to 125I albumin. These results suggest possible mechanisms for extravasation of HIV-infected monocytes through vascular endothelium into tissue in early stages of HIV disease.