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It has long been postulated that normal lymphocyte homing mechanisms help determine the metastatic spread of lymphoid neoplasms. The traffic of normal lymphocytes is controlled in part by the regulated expression of surface receptors for high endothelial venules (HEV), specialized venules that mediate the extravasation of circulating lymphocytes from the blood into lymphoid organs and sites of chronic inflammation. Here we have compared the in vivo growth patterns of HEV-binding vs. nonbinding murine lymphomas passaged intramuscularly into syngeneic recipients. We report that lymphomas that bind well to HEV (as assessed in a quantitative in vitro assay) disseminate widely via the blood, involving all lymph node groups symmetrically. Although both HEV- binding and nonbinding lymphomas gain access to the blood, gross involvement of lymph nodes by nonbinding lymphomas is limited to nodes draining local tumor at the site of injection, a prominent feature of these lymphomas; distant lymph nodes are not enlarged. The results suggest that the expression of functional receptors for HEV either controls the hematogenous dissemination of malignant lymphocyte populations to HEV-bearing organs, or is coregulated with factors determining this metastatic behavior. The findings support the concept that normal lymphocyte homing mechanisms are important to the spread of leukemias and lymphomas.