Local immune responses are thought to play an important role in the development of atherosclerosis. Histological studies have shown that human atherosclerotic lesions contain T lymphocytes throughout all stages of development, many of which are in an activated state. A number of novel CC chemokines have been described recently, which are potent chemoattractants for lymphocytes: PARC (pulmonary and activation-regulated chemokine), ELC (EBI1-ligand chemokine), LARC (liver and activation-regulated chemokine), and SLC (secondary lymphoid-tissue chemokine). Using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization, we have found gene expression for PARC and ELC but not for LARC or SLC in human atherosclerotic plaques. Immunohistochemical staining of serial plaque sections with specific cell markers revealed highly different expression patterns of PARC and ELC. PARC mRNA was restricted to CD68+ macrophages (n = 14 of 18), whereas ELC mRNA was widely expressed by macrophages and intimal smooth muscle cells (SMC) in nearly all of the lesions examined (n = 12 of 14). ELC mRNA was also found to be expressed in the medial SMC wall of highly calcified plaques (n = 4). Very low levels of ELC mRNA expression could also be detected in normal mammary arteries but no mRNA expression for PARC was detected in these vessels (n = 4). In vitro, ELC mRNA was found to be up-regulated in aortic SMC stimulated with tumor necrosis factor-a and interferon-gamma but not in SMC stimulated with serum. Both PARC and ELC mRNA were expressed by monocyte-derived macrophages but not monocytes. The expression patterns of PARC and ELC mRNA in human atherosclerotic lesions suggest a potential role for these two recently described CC chemokines in attracting T lymphocytes into atherosclerotic lesions.