Integrins are heterodimeric cell adhesion receptors. The beta 1 integrin subunit can be in a complex with multiple a subunits and form receptors for collagen, laminin, fibronectin, and vitronectin. We have characterized the distribution of eight integrin subunits in rheumatoid synovium, with special interest in the lining cell layer. The beta 1 integrin subunit was found in abundance in synovial stroma and in lining cells. The only alpha subunit seen constantly in lining cells was alpha 6. In complex with alpha beta subunit, alpha 6 forms a laminin receptor usually seen in epithelial or endothelial cells or in macrophages. The fact that laminin was found in the extracellular matrix around synovial cells suggests the importance of alpha 6 integrin in the adhesion of synovial lining cells. Furthermore, alpha 6 expression was noticeably weaker in strongly proliferative lining cell layers, indicating that the inflammatory process may regulate integrin expression. A potential connection between altered expression of cell adhesion receptors and the pathological behavior of rheumatoid lining cells is suggested.