The carbohydrate structure sialyl-Lewis X (SLex) can function as a ligand for E-selectin, formerly known as endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1 (ELAM-1). This study was performed to analyze the expression of SLex by leukocytes and other cell types in the context of inflammatory and immune processes. Human peripheral blood cells were examined by flow cytometry using monoclonal antibody CSLEX1 directed against SLex. Cell surface SLex was found in abundance on nearly all isolated polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) and monocytes, and at low levels on a substantial portion (up to 40%) of natural killer cells. This moiety was expressed also on approximately 10% of peripheral blood T cells. Immunohistochemistry was performed on various human tissues involved in inflammatory or immune processes and on secondary lymphoid tissues. In acute appendicitis, endothelial cells of postcapillary venules expressed E-selectin, and most PMN, both within vessels and extravasated, expressed SLex. A substantial number of monocytes/macrophages in inflamed appendiceal, synovial, and dermal tissues also reacted with antibody CSLEX1; however, only rare tissue macrophages in uninflamed nonlymphoid sites showed expression of SLex. These observations are consistent with the concept that SLex on circulating PMN and monocytes functions as a ligand for endothelial E-selectin in the development of inflammatory reactions. SLex-positive lymphocytes also were seen, notably, T lymphocytes in inflamed skin. An unexpected finding was that the CSLEX1 antibody also reacted with venular endothelium in certain lymphoid tissues and in inflamed appendix, but not with endothelium in normal appendix. Whether the SLex antigen identified on endothelium represents de novo expression or passive adsorption remains to be determined.