Inflammation occurs in the context of integrin-mediated adhesive interactions of cells with their extracellular matrix environment. We investigated the role of the collagen binding integrin alpha1beta1 in a model of colitis. alpha1beta1 was expressed on lamina propria T cells and monocytes during disease. Both alpha1 deficiency and anti-alpha1 mAb treatment (prophylactic and therapeutic) protected against colitis. In vivo alpha1beta1 blockade improved macroscopic and histologic scores, decreased inflammatory cytokine production, and profoundly affected the ability of lamina propria mononuclear cells to proliferate and produce IFN-gamma in vitro. Development and alpha1-mediated inhibition of colitis can be lymphocyte independent, suggesting that activated monocytes also represent a key alpha1beta1-expressing cell type involved in colitis. These results underscore the importance of innate immunity and, specifically, of leukocyte/matrix interactions in regulating local inflammatory responses.