There is increasing evidence that inappropriate immune activation induced by parasite products occurs in malaria disease. To further clucidate the role of Plasmodium falciparum-derived products on host immune activation, we studied the expression of leukocyte adhesion molecules (CD11b/CD18 and LAM-1) on neutrophils and monocytes in response to malaria pigment using flow cytometry. Exposure of leukocytes to isolated malaria pigment derived from ruptured schizonts resulted in significant up-regulation of CD11b/CD18 expression and down-regulation of LAM-1 on both neutrophils and monocytes. In contrast, culture supernatants (pigment free) from ruptured schizonts did not alter the expression of CD11b/CD18 and LAM-1. The increase of CD11b/CD18 and the loss of LAM-1 expression occurred simultaneously with the earliest response detected at 10 min and a plateau reached by 60 min. The effect of malaria pigment on leukocyte adhesion molecules was inhibited by EDTA in a dose-dependent manner. Phagocytosis of malaria pigment was also suppressed by EDTA. This observation suggests that phagocytosis of malaria pigment may be a prerequisite for the effect of malaria pigment on the regulation of CD11b/CD18 and LAM-1 expression. Regulation of leukocyte adhesion molecules through up-regulation of CD11b/CD18 and down-regulation of LAM-1 by malaria pigment could promote leukocyte adherence to endothelium in vivo. This increased adherence of malaria pigment-activated leukocytes might induce cytokine (tumor necrosis factorα and interleukin-1β)-mediated increases in capillary permeability resulting in local tissue edema, and a cytokine-mediated increase in adhesion molecule expression causing vascular clogging by adherent red blood cells, and in severe disease by adherent leukocytes.