Leukocyte rolling and firm adhesion at the venular endothelium are two discrete events in the cellular inflammatory response mediated via selectin and integrin adhesion molecules, respectively. The dependency of chemoattractant-induced firm leukocyte adhesion on the preceding rolling interaction was investigated in rat mesenteric microvessels through use of intravital microscopy. Leukocyte rolling was dose-dependently inhibited by systemic treatment with the sulphated polysaccharide fucoidin. The firm leukocyte adhesion following stimulation with the chemotactic peptide fMLP was similarly inhibited when fMLP challenge was performed subsequent to inhibition of leukocyte rolling by fucoidin. Thus, based on paired observations in single venules before and after fucoidin treatment, reduced rolling leukocyte flux prior to fMLP challenge was paralleled over a wide range by a proportional decrease in fMLP-induced leukocyte adhesion. The results demonstrate quantitatively a close relationship between the extent of leukocyte rolling and the magnitude of the subsequent firm adhesion response, and, that an initial rolling interaction is a precondition for firm adhesion to occur at physiological blood flow rates in vivo.