While endothelial oxidant generation and subsequent leukocyte chemotaxis and activation are important mechanisms of tissue damage in ischemic organs, it is not known if oxidant generation may be involved in triggering the subsequent leukocyte-mediated injury which occurs. Questions remain whether particular oxidants and oxygen-free radicals are capable of modulating the expression of leukocyte adhesion molecules and effecting leukocyte endothelial adhesion. Studies were performed to determine the effect of different biologically occurring oxidant molecules and oxygen free radicals including: .O2-, .OH, and H2O2 on the expression of integrin and selectin adhesion molecules on the surface of human PMNs and to determine the effect of these alterations on PMN adhesion to the endothelium. Adhesion molecule expression on the surface of human PMNs was measured by immunofluorescence flow cytometry. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy was applied to characterize the presence of exogenous free radical generation as well as that from activated PMNs. It was observed that these oxidants can cause up-regulation of CD11b and CD18 expression with shedding of L-selectin. The kinetics and dose-response of these effects were analyzed and their functional significance determined by measuring PMN adhesion to cultured human aortic endothelial monolayers. These studies demonstrate that oxygen free radicals and non-radical oxidants can directly trigger PMN activation and adhesion to vascular endothelium.