We have compared the ability of human alpha/beta and gamma/delta T lymphocytes to adhere to selectin-bearing substrates, an interaction thought to be essential for homing and localization at sites of inflammation. Both T cell populations form rolling adhesions on E- and P-selectin substrates under physiologic flow conditions. Although equivalent to alpha/beta T cells in binding to E-selectin, gamma/delta T cells demonstrated greater ability to adhere to P-selectin that was purified or expressed on the surface of activated, adherent platelets. Under static conditions, 80% of gamma/delta T cells and 53% of alpha/beta T cells formed shear-resistant adhesions to P-selectin, whereas only 30% of gamma/delta and alpha/beta T cells adhered to E-selectin. The enhance ability of gamma/delta T cells to adhere to P-selectin cannot be attributed to differences in expression of the P-selectin glycoprotein ligand (PSGL-1), as all alpha/beta T cells versus approximately 75% of gamma/delta T cells expressed PSGL-1. Both cell populations expressed a similar percentage of the carbohydrate antigens sialyl LewisX and cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen. Depletion of lymphocyte populations or T cell clones bearing these oligosaccharides with the monoclonal antibody CSLEX-1 and HECA-452, respectively, resulted in a substantial reduction in adhesion to E-selectin and slight reduction in adhesion to P-selectin under flow conditions. Treatment of cells with an endopeptidase that selectively degrades O-sialomucins such as PSGL-1, abolished P-selectin but not E-selectin adhesion. Removal of terminal sialic acids with neuraminidase or protease treatment of cells abrogated cell adhesion to both selectin substrates. These results provide direct evidence for the presence of distinct E- and P-selectin ligands on T lymphocytes and suggest that gamma/delta T cells may be preferentially recruited to inflammatory sites during the early stages of an immune response when P-selectin is upregulated.