We investigated the effects of hypoxia on red blood cell (RBC)-endothelial cell (EC) adherence and the potential mechanism(s) involved in mediating this effect. We report that hypoxia significantly increased sickle RBC adherence to aortic EC when compared with the normoxia controls. However, hypoxia had no effect on the adherence of normal RBCs. In additional studies, we found that the least dense sickle RBCs containing CD36+ and VLA-4+ reticulocytes were involved in hypoxia-induced adherence. We next evaluated the effects of hypoxia on the expression of EC surface receptors involved in RBC adherence to macrovascular ECs, including vascular cell adhesion molecule-l (VCAM-l), intracellular adhesion molecule-l (ICAM-l), and the vitronectin receptor (VnR). Hypoxia upregulated the expression of both VCAM-1 and ICAM-1. whereas no effect on VnR was noted. Potential involvement of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 in mediating hypoxia-induced sickle RBC-EC adhesion was next investigated using monoclonal antibodies against these receptors.