Carbohydrate moieties on leukocytes adhere to activated platelets via P- selectin under static binding condition studies. We characterize polymorphonuclear cell (PMN) surface interactions with surface adherent platelets and the PMNs response, under physiologic flow conditions corresponding to a shear of 100 s-1, in an in vitro flow chamber. Fluorescent labeled PMNs with red blood cells were drawn through a transparent flow channel and visually quantitated over 30 minutes, interacting with a confluent monolayer of activated, shear-spread platelets expressing P-selectin. PMN adhesion was saturable (2,250 +/- 350/mm2), and time and cation (Ca2+, Mg2+) dependent, and PMNs did not bind to the experimental surface in the absence of a platelet monolayer. P-selectin antibodies completely abolished PMN adhesion in a concentration-dependent manner with half inhibition at 70 micrograms/mL. Antibodies to a putative P-selectin receptor CD15 (80H5 and MMA) maximally inhibited PMN adhesion by 73% and 10%, respectively. Adherent PMNs appeared morphologically activated and flow cytometric analysis of adherent PMNs confirmed activation because CD11b and CD18 surface expression was upregulated (100% and 27%, respectively), whereas L-selectin was downregulated (55%) compared with control nonadherent PMNs. In the presence of the metabolic inhibitor sodium azide (0.02% and 0.1%) there was a 23% +/- 9% and 51% +/- 3% decrease, respectively, in PMN adhesion at 100 s-1. Thus, P-selectin is required for PMN adhesion to a pathophysiologic surface of activated adherent platelets at physiologic shear rates. Furthermore, a secondary step involving PMN activation after platelet binding appears necessary for complete (irreversible) adhesion to occur. This unique flow cell provides a model to explore, under controlled conditions, biologic mechanisms and ligands involved in leukocyte-platelet binding that play important roles in PMN localization at sites of thrombosis and vascular injury.