The antigenic status of vascular endothelium from different sites of the normal adult and fetal human cardiovascular system was investigated. Tissues included aorta (n = 9), pulmonary artery (n = 8), coronary artery (n = 6), ventricle/atrium (n = greater than 10), lymph node (n = 2), fetal whole heart (n = 3), and umbilical cord (n = 7). Frozen sections were studied using monoclonal antibodies recognizing endothelial markers (EN4, vWf, Pal-E, and 44G4), vascular adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, ELAM, VCAM, and PECAM), the monocyte/endothelial marker (OKM5), and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules (class I and class II). Results demonstrate that capillary endothelium is phenotypically different from endothelial cells (EC) lining large vessels. Capillary EC strongly express MHC classes I and II, ICAM, and OKM5, which are variably weak to undetectable on large vessels. In contrast, the large vessels strongly express vWf and appear to constitutively express ELAM-1. This suggests that the capillary EC may be more efficient at antigen presentation or more susceptible to immune attack in vivo. Interestingly, normal coronary arteries, unlike all other large vessels, express MHC class II and VCAM molecules. Future studies should concentrate on comparative functional studies between capillary, coronary, and large vessel EC.