Some B-cell neoplasms, including hairy cell leukemia (HCL), lack expression of the adhesion molecule leukocyte function antigen-1 (LFA- 1/CD11a). Additionally, HCL cells express relatively low amounts of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1/CD54) and may therefore be an inappropriate target for recognition by T cells or lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. We tested whether these molecules were inducible on HCL cells and if induction would lead to enhanced susceptibility to lysis by LAK cells or cytolytic T cells. CD11a expression was induced by incubation with interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) or interleukin-4. CD54 was induced by culturing the cells irrespectively of the addition of cytokines. Expression of CD11a and CD54 did not enhance susceptibility to either autologous or allogeneous LAK cells. However, induction of these adhesion molecules was accompanied by enhanced susceptibility to lysis by cytotoxic T lymphocyte clones. This lysis could be reversed by the addition of anti-CD11a and anti-CD54 antibodies. Finally, we monitored the expression of CD11a and CD54 on HCL cells from patients during IFN-alpha therapy. In one of four patients monitored, we observed rapid in vivo induction of CD11a and CD54 on the leukemic cells during IFN-alpha therapy. These studies provide a model for studying immunosurveillance in HCL.