Chemotactic factors are postulated to direct emigration of lymphocytes from the blood stream into sites of inflammation. Members of a family of chemotactic cytokines, termed chemokines, have been shown to attract lymphocytes but efficacy, i.e., the maximal percentage of attracted cells, has been low. We have identified a highly efficacious lymphocyte chemotactic activity in the supernatants of the murine bone marrow stroma cell line MS-5 which attracts 10-fold more lymphocytes in vitro than currently described lymphocyte chemoattractants. Purification of this chemotactic activity revealed identity to stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1). SDF-1 acts on lymphocytes and monocytes but not neutrophils in vitro and is both a highly efficacious and highly potent mononuclear cell attractant in vivo. In addition, SDF-1 induces intracellular actin polymerization in lymphocytes, a process that is thought to be a prerequisite for cell motility. Since SDF-1 is expressed constitutively in a broad range of tissues it may have a role in immune surveillance and in basal extravasation of lymphocytes and monocytes rather than in inflammation.