Expression of the adhesion molecules CD44, L-selectin (CD62L), and integrin alpha 4 beta 7 by antibody-secreting cells (ASC) was examined in human volunteers after oral, rectal, intranasal, or systemic immunization with cholera toxin B subunit. Almost all blood ASC, irrespective of immunization route, isotype (IgG and IgA), and immunogen, expressed CD44. On the other hand, marked differences were observed between systemically and intestinally induced ASC with respect to expression of integrin alpha 4 beta 7 and L-selectin, adhesion molecules conferring tissue specificity for mucosal tissues and peripheral lymph nodes, respectively. Thus, most ASC induced at systemic sites expressed L-selectin, whereas only a smaller proportion of ASC expressed alpha 4 beta 7. In contrast, virtually all IgA- and even IgG-ASC detected after peroral and rectal immunizations expressed alpha 4 beta 7, with only a minor fraction of these cells expressing L-selectin. Circulating ASC induced by intranasal immunization displayed a more promiscuous pattern of adhesion molecules, with a large majority of ASC coexpressing L-selectin and alpha 4 beta 7. These results demonstrate that circulating ASC induced by mucosal and systemic immunization express different sets of adhesion molecules. Furthermore, these findings provide for the first time evidence for differential expression of adhesion molecules on circulating ASC originating from different mucosal sites. Collectively, these results may explain the anatomical division of mucosal and systemic immune responses in humans as well as the compartmentalization of mucosal immune responses initiated in the upper vs. the lower aerodigestive tract.