Many studies have indicated changes in neuropeptides in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but with contradictory results. Nerve growth factor also has a potential role in the maintenance of enteric nerves and may be associated with IBD. A quantitative immunohistochemical method was used to measure area density of immunoreactive nerves in the colonic mucosa of surgical specimens. No significant differences in immunoreactivity for substance P, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, growth associated protein 43, and the neurotrophin receptor p75 were seen in the control, Crohn's, and ulcerative colitis groups. Compared to age-matched normal colon (N = 18), there was an increase in neutrophil number in Crohn's (P < 0.05) and ulcerative colitis (P < 0.01) (both N = 9). There were positive correlations (P < 0.05) between neutrophil number and growth associated protein, between p75 and substance P immunoreactive nerves in ulcerative colitis, and between p75 and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide in Crohn's specimens. These data indicate a link between the immunologic and nervous systems in IBD.