The localization of circulating leukocytes within inflamed tissues occurs as the result of interactions with and migration across vascular endothelium, and is governed, in part, by the expression of adhesion molecules on both cell types. Recently, we have described a novel primary adhesion interaction between the structurally activated form of the adhesion molecule CD44 on lymphocytes and its major ligand hyaluronan on endothelial cells under physiologic laminar flow conditions, and have proposed that this interaction functions in an extravasation pathway for lymphocytes in vascular beds at sites of inflammation. While the regulation of activated CD44 on leukocytes has been characterized in depth, regulation of hyaluronate (HA) on endothelial cells has not been extensively studied. Here we demonstrate that the expression of HA on cultured endothelial cell lines and primary endothelial cultures is inducible by the proinflammatory cytokines TNFalpha and IL-1beta, as well as bacterial lipopolysaccharide. In addition, this inducibility appears strikingly restricted to endothelial cells derived from microvascular, but not large vessel, sources. The elevated HA levels thus induced result in increased CD44-dependent adhesive interactions in both nonstatic shear and laminar flow adhesion assays. Changes in mRNA levels for the described HA synthetic and degradative enzymes were not found, suggesting other more complex mechanisms of regulation. Together, these data add to the selectin and immunoglobulin gene families a new inducible endothelial adhesive molecule, hyaluronan, and help to further our understanding of the potential physiologic roles of the CD44/HA interaction; i.e., local cytokine production within inflamed vascular beds may enhance surface hyaluronan expression on endothelial cells, thereby creating local sites receptive to the CD44/HA interaction and thus extravasation of inflammatory cells.