The aetiology of Crohn's disease (CD) remains unknown. Since SAMP1/Yit mice have been reported to develop CD-like spontaneous enteric inflammation, such mice have been studied as an animal model of CD. In this study, using this model we examined T lymphocyte migration in microvessels of intestinal mucosa in vivo and the expression of adhesion molecules by immunohistochemistry. Fluorescence-labelled T lymphocytes isolated from AKR/J (control) mice were injected into the tail veins of recipient mice, and T lymphocyte migration in the postcapillary venules of Peyer's patches, submucosal microvessels, and villus capillaries of the terminal ileum was monitored using an intravital microscope. Adhesion of T lymphocytes was significantly increased in 35 week old SAMP1/Yit mice compared with that in AKR/J or 15 week old SAMP1/Yit mice. Immunohistochemical study showed increased infiltration of CD4, CD8 and beta7-integrin-positive cells and increased expression of MAdCAM-1 and VCAM-1 in the terminal ileum of SAMP1/Yit mice. Antibodies against MAdCAM-1 and VCAM-1 significantly inhibited adhesion of T lymphocytes to microvessels of the terminal ileum, and anti-MAdCAM-1 antibody showed stronger suppressive effect than the anti-VCAM-1 antibody. Periodical administration of anti-MAdCAM-1 antibody twice a week for 7 weeks significantly ameliorated ileitis of SAMP1/Yit mice, but submucosal hypertrophy was not significantly suppressed. Anti-VCAM-1 antibody treatment failed to show significant resolution of ileitis. In addition, anti-MAdCAM-1 antibody treatment also attenuated established ileitis. The results demonstrate that, although MAdCAM-1 and VCAM-1 play an important role in T lymphocyte-endothelial cell interactions in SAMP1/Yit mice, MAdCAM-1 may be a more appropriate target for therapeutic modulation of chronic ileitis.