Using monoclonal antibodies to T and B lymphocytes, to natural killer cells, and to HLA-DR antigen, we characterized the lymphocyte population within the epithelial and lamina propria regions in control intestine and colon, and in grossly involved and in grossly uninvolved intestine and colon of patients with active inflammatory bowel disease. There were significantly more intraepithelial T cells in control ileum than in control colon. In comparison to control, there was a heterogeneity of alterations in intraepithelial and lamina propria T lymphocyte subsets (T11+, T8+, T4+) in inflammatory bowel disease. B lymphocytes were not detected within the lamina propria, except when found in and adjacent to lymphoid aggregates. Leu 7+ cells were uncommon in the lamina propria of control ileum and colon and in diseased tissues. The majority of intraepithelial lymphocytes did not express HLA-DR. Epithelial cells of control colon did not express HLA-DR while epithelial cells of control ileal tissues and of diseased colonic and ileal specimens expressed HLA-DR antigen. Only small numbers of lamina propria T cells expressed HLA-DR in both control and disease tissues. There was intense expression of HLA-DR by monocytes and modest expression of HLA-DR by capillary and lymphatic endothelial cells. The induction of HLA-DR expression by diseased colonic epithelium and the observation that lymphatic endothelium expresses HLA-DR are new observations, and we established that Leu 7+ cells are present in very small numbers in both normal and diseased intestine and colon.