Molecules whose expression is increased upon stimulation on leukocyte populations are of considerable interest because insights into their structure and function extend knowledge of the intracellular and intercellular events that accompany cellular activation. One such molecule is CD97, a cell surface antigen that is rapidly upregulated upon activation on lymphocytes. Increasing CD97 levels on peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) induced by different stimuli were found to be largely independent on de novo RNA and protein synthesis during the early stage of activation. Thus, inhibition of CD97 surface expression by cycloheximide was not noticeable or insignificant for 15 min to 4 h after stimulation. Furthermore, a fraction of intracellular CD97 decreased within 2 h suggesting redistribution of CD97 protein. Later, de novo protein synthesis apparently contributes to the induction of high CD97 surface density and inhibition by cycloheximide was more pronounced. Upregulation of CD97 on PBL involves protein kinase C-, tyrosine protein kinase- and Ca2+-dependent intracellular pathways. The effect on CD97 surface expression of the phorbol ester, phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), is different in PBL and Jurkat T cells. Whereas it stimulated after 22 h strong CD97 increase on PBL it suppressed CD97 expression on Jurkat T cells. CD97 expression, which is strong and constitutive on myelo-monocytic cells, is shown to be not leukocyte-restricted. Thus, CD97 transcripts were found in most of the investigated nonhematopoietic cell types and CD97 protein was detected on the cell surface at low amount. In a previous report, sequence data of a CD97 cDNA suggested a protein homologous to the secretin receptor superfamily and consisting of 722 amino acids with 8 potential glycosylation sites. According to this finding, glycoproteins displaying apparent molecular weights in the region of 70-85 kDa were detected in all investigated cell types. These molecules may represent differentially glycosylated and sialylated molecular forms of the same polypeptide. The findings support the notion that CD97 is broadly distributed and possesses a differentially regulated expression behavior on leukocytes and non-hematopoietic cells.