In vivo interactions between neutrophils and endothelial cells (EC) follow a multistep process involving two distinct neutrophil adhesion receptors. L-selectin, constitutively functional on resting neutrophils, mediates an activation-independent primary interaction resulting in rolling along the venular wall. Subsequent activation of rolling neutrophils induces upregulation and functional activation of beta 2-integrins (CD11/CD18) leading to firm attachment. Based on previous findings we hypothesized that, under shear force, rolling may be essential for successful neutrophil-EC recognition. Here we report results of our studies of human neutrophil behavior in interleukin (IL)-1-activated rabbit mesentery venules, an interaction that requires both L-selectin and beta 2-integrins. Rolling of human neutrophils is L-selection mediated; it was strongly reduced by monoclonal antibody inhibition or enzymatic removal of L-selectin. Furthermore, activation induced L-selectin shedding and, in a dose- and time-dependent fashion, rendered neutrophils unable to recognize inflamed EC despite expression of active beta 2-integrins, which promoted adhesion in vitro. Neutrophils activated for 5 min or longer lost most of their ability to roll. However, 1-3 min after activation, rolling was reduced (not abolished), and cells that were still able to roll displayed a significant tendency for a CD18-dependent transition from rolling to sticking. The whole sequence of events, rolling, sticking, and transendothelial migration, could be observed if an extravascular chemotactic stimulus was applied by superfusing mesenteries with leukotriene B4. Under such conditions, sticking and emigration was blocked when rolling was inhibited by enzymatic removal of L-selectin. Our results indicate that primary neutrophil interaction with inflamed EC through the L-selectin is a prerequisite for neutrophil function at physiological shear rates in vivo.