We have conducted an immunocytochemical analysis to investigate the presence of the recently described vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) in human kidney, using the anti-VCAM-1 monoclonal antibody 1.4C3. In normal control tissue VCAM-1 was present on some (but not all) parietal epithelial cells lining Bowman's capsule. Forty-nine of fifty clinical biopsy specimens were characterised by the additional presence of VCAM-1 on proximal tubular cells. This was most marked in biopsies of patients with interstitial nephritis or systemic vasculitis with crescentic nephritis, but was also observed in biopsies with minimal change, IgA or lupus nephropathy, or from patients with diabetic nephropathy, amyloid, or gout. Proximal tubule VCAM-1 correlated significantly with the number of transferrin-receptor-positive leukocytes (r = 0.607, p less than 0.0001) in the interstitium, but not with expression of HLA-DR by tubular cells. Surprisingly, VCAM-1 was not observed on vascular endothelial cells in these biopsies, even in the presence of a marked infiltrate; this contrasts with other tissues (e.g. skin and synovium). The presence of VCAM-1 on tubular cells in the inflamed kidney indicates the potential for these cells to interact with mononuclear cells, either as accessory cells or as cytotoxic targets. The unexpected absence of VCAM-1 in renal vascular endothelial cells suggests local differences in the endothelial cells of this organ.