Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), an inducible cell-cell recognition protein on the endothelial cell surface (EC), has been associated with early stages of atherosclerosis. In view of the accelerated vascular disease observed in patients with diabetes, and the enhanced expression of VCAM-1 in diabetic rabbits, we examined whether irreversible advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), could mediate VCAM-1 expression by interacting with their endothelial cell receptor (receptor for AGE, RAGE). Exposure of cultured human ECs to AGEs induced expression of VCAM-1, increased adhesivity of the monolayer for Molt-4 cells, and was associated with increased levels of VCAM-1 transcripts. The inhibitory effect of anti-RAGE IgG, a truncated form of the receptor (soluble RAGE) or N-acetylcysteine on VCAM-1 expression indicated that AGE-RAGE-induced oxidant stress was central to VCAM-1 induction. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays on nuclear extracts from AGE-treated ECs showed induction of specific DNA binding activity for NF-kB in the VCAM-1 promoter, which was blocked by anti-RAGE IgG or N-acetylcysteine. Soluble VCAM-1 antigen was elevated in human diabetic plasma. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that AGE-RAGE interaction induces expression of VCAM-1 which can prime diabetic vasculature for enhanced interaction with circulating monocytes.