The expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) on human gingival fibroblasts (HGF) may be important for migration and retention of inflammatory cells in periodontally diseased tissue. This study aimed to assess which cytokines regulate ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression on HGF. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interferon (IFN)-gamma enhanced both ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression on HGF. Interleukin (IL)-1beta mainly up-regulated ICAM-1 expression. On the other hand, IL-4 and IL-13 enhanced only VCAM-1 expression on HGF. IL-10 did not modulate both ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1 enhanced ICAM-1 expression. However, TGF-beta1 inhibited the VCAM-1 expression induced by TNF-alpha or IL-4. Both ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression by HGF was inhibited by nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation inhibitor (MG-132). Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) inhibitors did not influence ICAM-1 expression induced by TNF-alpha. Interestingly, VCAM-1 expression was enhanced by MEK inhibitor (PD98059) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor (SP600125). These results mean that the balance of cytokines in periodontally diseased tissue may be essential for control of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression on HGF, and the balance of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression might be important for regulation of leucocytes infiltration and retention in periodontally diseased tissue.