Phosphomannan polysaccharides and fucoidan, a polymer of fucose 4-sulfate, have been demonstrated to inhibit adhesion of lymphocytes to tissue sections that contain high endothelial venules (Stoolman, L. M., T. S. Tenforde, and S. D. Rosen, 1984, J. Cell Biol., 99:1535-1540). We have investigated the potential cell surface carbohydrate receptors involved by quantitating adhesion of rat cervical lymph node lymphocytes to purified polysaccharides immobilized on otherwise inert polyacrylamide gels. One-sixth of the lymphocytes adhered specifically to surfaces derivatized with PPME (a phosphomannan polysaccharide prepared from Hansenula holstii yeast), whereas up to half of the cells adhered to surfaces derivatized with fucoidan. Several lines of evidence demonstrated that two distinct receptors were involved. Adhesion to PPME-derivatized gels was labile at 37 degrees C (decreasing to background levels within 120 min) whereas adhesion to fucoidan-derivatized gels was stable. Soluble PPME and other phosphomannans blocked adhesion only to PPME-derivatized gels; fucoidan and a structurally related fucan blocked adhesion to fucoidan-derivatized gels. Other highly charged anionic polysaccharides, such as heparin, did not block adhesion to either polysaccharide-derivatized gel. Adhesion to PPME-derivatized gels was dependent on divalent cations, whereas that to fucoidan-derivatized gels was not. The PPME-adherent lymphocytes were shown to be a subpopulation of the fucoidan-adhesive lymphocytes which contained both saccharide receptors. These data reveal that at least two distinct carbohydrate receptors can be found on peripheral lymphocytes.