Binding of FMLP to the neutrophil N-formyl peptide receptor (FPR) transmits signals through pertussis toxin-sensitive G proteins triggering Ca2+ flux, superoxide production, granule exocytosis, and neutrophil aggregation and adhesion involving the beta 2 (CD18) integrins. Expression of the FPR in mouse fibroblasts or human kidney cells has been shown to confer an N-formyl peptide-inducible Ca2+ flux in transfectants. Here we demonstrate that the transfected receptor can also support ligand-induced alterations in cellular adhesion. We established stable transfectants of mouse L1-2 pre-B cells with cDNA for human FPR (L1-2 FPR cells). The transfectants bind N-formyl-Nle-Leu-Phe-Nle-Tyr-Lys-fluorescein with 1.4 x 10(5) sites per cell and a dissociation constant of 3.3 nM. Stimulation with FMLP induces a transient Ca2+ flux. FMLP also triggers adhesion of L1-2 FPR cells to TNF-alpha- or LPS-activated bEnd3 cells (mouse brain-derived endothelial cells) and to purified mouse VCAM-1. Binding is inhibited by Abs to VCAM-1 and to the alpha-chain of its lymphocyte receptor (the alpha 4 beta 1 integrin, VLA-4). Stimulation with FMLP does not induce a change in cell surface expression of alpha 4. Induced adhesion to VCAM-1 is rapid, detectable at the earliest times measurable (30 to 60 s after FMLP addition), and is inhibited by pertussis toxin. We conclude that FPR can mediate integrin activation not only in neutrophils but also in lymphocytes, and can trigger rapid adhesion via lymphocyte alpha 4 beta 1. The adhesion of lymphocytes is critical to their migration and targeting; our results suggest the possibility of manipulating adhesive responses through expression of chemoattractant receptors in lymphoid cells engineered for cellular therapy, allowing targeted adhesion and potentially migration in response to locally administered ligands.