We have cloned a previously undescribed adhesion molecule, VCAM-1, which is induced by cytokines on human endothelial cells and binds lymphocytes. Using a novel method requiring neither monoclonal antibodies nor purified protein, VCAM-1-expressing clones were selected by adhesion to human lymphoid cell lines. VCAM-1 mRNA is present in endothelial cells at 2 hr after treatment with IL-1 or TNF-alpha and is maintained for at least 72 hr; leukocyte binding activity parallels mRNA induction. Cells transfected with VCAM-1 bind the human leukemia lines Jurkat, Ramos, Raji, HL60, and THP1, but not peripheral blood neutrophils. VCAM-1, which belongs to the immunoglobulin gene super-family, may be central to recruitment of mononuclear leukocytes into inflammatory sites in vivo.