In an endeavor to further characterize human intercellular adhesion molecule-2 (ICAM-2), two murine monoclonal antibodies (mAb) were generated to ICAM-2 transfected COS cells, and designated CBR-IC2/1 and CBR-IC2/2. Immunoprecipitated, reduced ICAM-2 migrated as a broad band of Mr 60,000 in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Treatment with N-glycanase revealed a peptide backbone of Mr 31,000, consistent with the size predicted from the cDNA. ICAM-2 had a broad distribution on hematopoietic cell lines and little expression on other cell lines, the sole exception being cultured endothelial cells which possess high levels of ICAM-2. Resting lymphocytes and monocytes expressed ICAM-2, while neutrophils did not. Staining of tissue sections with anti-ICAM-2 mAb confirmed their strong reactivity to vascular endothelium, but demonstrated a lack of ICAM-2 expression on other tissues. Small clusters of ICAM-2 positive cells were, however, seen in germinal centers. In contrast to ICAM-1 there was little or no induction of ICAM-2 expression on lymphocytes or cultured endothelium upon stimulation with inflammatory mediators. One of the two mAb, CBR-IC2/2, was found to totally inhibit binding of ICAM-2+ COS cells to purified lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1). Using this mAb, LFA-1-dependent binding to both stimulated and unstimulated endothelium was found to be totally accounted for by ICAM-1 and ICAM-2. Homotypic aggregation of an Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B cell line, JY, was found to be solely ICAM-1 and ICAM-2-dependent, while in the case of the T cell lymphoma cell line, SKW3, anti- ICAM-2 mAb in conjunction with anti-ICAM-1 mAb could not inhibit the LFA-1-dependent aggregation. This suggests an additional LFA-1 ligand exists. Using a cell binding assay to purified LFA-1 in conjunction with anti-ICAM-1 and anti-ICAM-2 mAb, we have demonstrated that this putative third ligand for LFA-1 exists on SKW3 and other cell lines.