L-selectin, a cell adhesion molecule expressed by leukocytes, mediates the attachment of lymphocytes to high endothelial venules (HEV) of peripheral lymph nodes and mediates the earliest interactions between leukocytes and activated vascular endothelium. Mice possessing a mutant L-selectin gene that results in the complete loss of cell surface receptor expression were generated by gene targeting. Lymphocytes from these mice did not bind to peripheral lymph node HEV and these mice had a severe reduction in the number of lymphocytes localized to peripheral lymph nodes. Short-term homing experiments demonstrated that L-selectin was also involved in lymphocyte migration to mucosal lymph nodes, Peyer's patches, and spleen. Furthermore, significant defects in leukocyte rolling and neutrophil migration into the peritoneum in response to an inflammatory stimulus were observed. Thus, L-selectin plays an essential role in leukocyte homing to lymphoid tissues and sites of inflammation.