Psoriatic arthritis (PA) is an inflammatory rheumatic disease that can concomitantly occur in patients with psoriasis vulgaris. Psoriatic synovitis shows alterations of the synovial microvasculature. Inflammatory cells adhere to endothelial cells (EC) and migrate through the vascular wall of postcapillary venules located in the subintimal layer of the synovial membrane. The aim of our study was to investigate, first, the phenotype of lymphocytes (LC) of PA patients using flow cytometry (FC) with regard to activation antigens and adhesion molecules; second, the adhesion of LC of PA patients on cultivated resting or activated (with thrombin, LPS, IFN-gamma, or TNF-alpha) human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) by counting the Feulgen-stained nuclei of both adherent LC and HUVEC using image analysis; and third, the synthesis of IL-6 and IL-8 in both LC and HUVEC 24 hr after cell contact. These cytokines were determined qualitatively by immunofluorescence and quantitatively at the single-cell level by FC as well as in the supernatants of the cultures using commercial cytokine ELISAs. Fourth, we investigated whether or not the LC adhesion on HUVEC as well as the cytokine production could be inhibited by monoclonal antibodies against LC- or EC-specific adhesion molecules. In contrast to controls PA patients showed an increased surface expression of CD11a, b, and c as well as of CD44 but a reduced surface expression of CD49d/CD29, and CD49e/CD29, and cell-bound fibronectin on CD3+ LC. The activation markers CD25 and HLA-DR were found to be slightly enhanced in PA. The cell adhesion was generally enhanced in PA patients vs controls. It could be reduced with monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) against CD11a and CD18 on IFN-gamma- or TNF-alpha-activated HUVEC but was generally enhanced after treatment of HUVEC with MoAbs against CD54, CD62E, or CD106. Due to LC adhesion on HUVEC IL-6 and IL-8 were produced in significantly higher amounts in PA patients compared to controls. This effect occurred already in resting but was enhanced in activated HUVEC. While IL-6 is mainly produced by HUVEC but also in smaller quantities by LC, IL-8 is synthesized only by HUVEC and could be modified by preincubation with MoAbs against LC- or EC-specific adhesion molecules in parallel to the cell adhesion. The experiments show that the main adhesion pathway in LC homing of PA patients is the interaction of the LC adhesion molecule CD11a/CD18 with CD54 on EC followed by an enhanced synthesis of proinflammatory and chemotactic cytokines. These results favor the hypothesis that the pathological alterations of the microvasculature in PA patients are generated by altered homing processes.