The role of chemokines and their interactions with extracellular matrix components (ECM) or the capacity of T cells to migrate into and accumulate within three-dimensional (3D) collagen type 1 substrata was studied. We examined the influence of chemokines and fibronectin on the infiltration properties of non-infiltrative (do not migrate into 3D substrata) and spontaneously infiltrative (migrate into 3D substrata) T-cell lines. Infiltrative and non-infiltrative T-acute lymphocytic leukaemic cell lines exhibited no consistent differences with respect to the expression of various chemokine receptors or beta(1)-integrins. Chemokines presented inside the collagen increased the depth of migration of infiltrative T-cell lines, but did not render non-infiltrative T-cell lines infiltrative, although they augmented the attachment of non-infiltrative T-cell lines to the upper surface of the collagen. The presence of fibronectin inside the collagen did not render non-infiltrative T-cell lines infiltrative, but markedly augmented the migration of 'infiltrative' T-cell lines into collagen. Both infiltrative and non-infiltrative T-cell lines showed migratory responses to chemokines in Boyden assays (migration detected on 2D substrata). These results indicate that the process of T-cell infiltration/migration into 3D substrata depends on a tissue penetration mechanism distinguishable from migration on 2D substrata and that the basic capacity of T cells to infiltrate is independent of chemokines and ECM components applied as attractants.