Transmembrane signals generated following mAb binding to CD19, CD20, CD39, CD40, CD43, Leu-13 Ag, and HLA-D region gene products induced rapid and strong homotypic adhesion in a panel of human B cell lines. Lower levels of adhesion were also observed after engagement of CD21, CD22, and CD23. Adhesion induced by mAb binding to these Ag was identical with respect to the kinetics of adhesion and the morphology of the resulting cellular aggregates, and was distinct from PMA-induced adhesion in both of these properties. Adhesion was not observed in response to mAb binding to MHC class I, CD24, CD38, CD44, CD45RA, or CD72. In contrast to B cell lines, homotypic adhesion was not induced in two pre-B cell lines, in spite of their high level expression of CD19 and HLA-D. Adhesion induced by suboptimal stimulation through these surface Ag or by PMA was mediated primarily through LFA-1 and ICAM-1. However, optimal stimulation through CD19, CD20, CD39, CD40, and HLA-D induced strong homotypic adhesion that was not blocked by anti-LFA-1 mAb. This alternate pathway of adhesion was also observed in LFA-1-deficient cell lines and in the presence of EDTA, suggesting that adhesion was not mediated by integrins. Adhesion in response to engagement of cell-surface Ag was unaffected by H7 or genestein, but was significantly inhibited by staurosporine, and was completely ablated by sphingosine and herbimycin. These studies indicate that engagement of multiple B cell-surface molecules initiates a signal transduction cascade that involves tyrosine kinases but not protein kinase C, and which leads to homotypic adhesion. Furthermore, adhesion was mediated by at least two distinct cell-surface adhesion receptors: LFA-1/ICAM-1 and a heretofore unknown adhesion receptor.