The cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB)-related inflammatory response involves leucocyte activation and increased leucocyte-endothelial cell interaction. L-selectin is an adhesion molecule expressed on the surface of leucocytes which participates in the initial rolling step of the leucocyte-endothelial cell adhesion cascade. L-selectin is proteolytically cleaved off the surface of leucocytes when they become activated, an event that is regarded as a marker of leucocyte activation. Aprotinin is a protease inhibitor that has been used in cardiac surgery as a haemostatic agent and also exhibits certain anti-inflammatory properties. In this study, peripheral venous blood from volunteers was pre-incubated with aprotinin at 200, 800 and 1600 kallikrein inhibiting units (kiu)/ml and stimulated with the chemoattractants N-formyl-methyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP) or platelet activating factor (PAF). Surface expression of L-selectin on neutrophils was measured using a monoclonal antibody and flow cytometry. The results demonstrate that aprotinin inhibits shedding of L-selectin in a dose-dependent fashion (p=0.0278 and 0.0005, respectively, at 800 and 1600 kiu/ml for fMLP-stimulated shedding; p=0.0017 and 0.0010, respectively, at 200 and 800 kiu/ml for PAF-stimulated shedding). This effect may be of significance with respect to the anti-inflammatory action of aprotinin in patients undergoing CPB.