T cells and other leucocytes regularly occur within and subjacent to the gut epithelium. Recent data suggest that intestinal epithelial cells may exert accessory immunological functions. Although interactions between leucocytes and accessory cells usually require expression of adhesion molecules, intestinal epithelium has generally been considered negative for intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) by immunohistochemical techniques. We therefore studied the expression of ICAM-1 and lymphocyte function-associated antigen-3 (LFA-3) by two colonic epithelial cell lines and found that both adhesion molecules were constitutively present at low levels. ICAM-1 protein expression could be enhanced within 4 h by cytokines, particularly after co-incubation with interferon-gamma (IFN) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1), or IL-6. IFN also resulted in accumulation of ICAM-1 mRNA. Conversely, the LFA-3 expression was virtually unaffected by cytokine stimulation. These data imply that intestinal epithelial cells under certain conditions may bear adhesion molecules required for cooperation with juxtaposed leucocytes in situ, and that the expression of some of these molecules is modulated by cytokines from activated mucosal leucocytes.