Selectin-ligands on T cells contribute to the recruitment of circulating cells into chronic inflammatory lesions in the skin and elsewhere. This report provides the first evidence that a single fucosyltransferase, termed FucT-VII, controls the synthesis of E-selectin ligands in human T-lymphoblasts. The FucT-IV transferase (the ELFT enzyme), in contrast constructs lower avidity E-selectin ligands and requires enzyme levels found only in myeloid cells. Treatment of Jurkat cells with phorbol myristate acetate increased the expression of sialylated Lewis(x)-related sLe(x)related epitopes and induced the synthesis of E-selectin ligands functional at physiologic levels of linear shear-stress. Northern analysis revealed a parallel increase in the steady-state levels FucT-VII mRNA, but there were no increases in the two other leukocyte-associated fucosyltransferases (FucT-IV and VI). The stable transfection of the FucT-VII gene into Jurkat cells induced high levels of the sLe(x)-related epitopes and the synthesis of E-selectin ligands which equal or exceeded the avidity of those on circulating lymphocytes. The growth of T-lymphoblasts under conditions which induced expression of the sLe(x,a) epitopes increased the level of FucT-VII mRNA, the synthesis of sialylated-Lewis(x) structures by cell-free extracts and the synthesis of E-selectin ligands equal in avidity to those on FucT-VII transfectants. In contrast, neither the mRNA levels nor activities of the FucT-IV and VI enzymes increased in association with E-selectin ligand synthesis in T-lymphoblasts. Myeloid cell lines, unlike lymphoblasts, expressed high levels of both the FucT-VII and IV enzymes in conjunction with E-selectin ligands raising the possibility that both enzymes contributed to ligand synthesis. FucT-IV transfected Jurkat cells synthesized low avidity ligands for E-selectin but only in association with CDw65 (VIM-2) carbohydrate epitope. Only blood neutrophils and myeloid cell lines expressed this epitope at the levels associated with E-ligand synthesis in the transfectants. In contrast, native Jurkat cells, blood monocytes, blood lymphocytes, and cultured T-lymphoblasts expressed low levels or none. We conclude that FucT-VII is a principal regulator of E-selectin ligand synthesis in human T-lymphoblasts while both FucT-VII and FucT-IV may direct ligand synthesis in some myeloid cells.