Accumulation of leukocytes at sites of inflammation is essential for host defense, yet secretory products of the white cells may augment injury by damaging surrounding healthy tissues. Members of the chemokine family of chemotactic cytokines play a fundamental role in this process by attracting and stimulating specific subsets of leukocytes. In vitro studies suggest that chemokines participate in at least three phases of leukocyte recruitment. First, they foster tight adhesion of circulating leukocytes to the vascular endothelium by activating leukocytic integrins. Second, because of their chemoattractant properties, chemokines guide leukocytes through the endothelial junctions and underlying tissue to the inflammatory focus. Finally, chemokines activate effector functions of leukocytes, including production of reactive oxygen intermediates and exocytosis of degradative enzymes. Animal studies in which antibodies are used to neutralize the activity of individual members of the chemokine family confirm that these mediators contribute to the development of both acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. A number of mechanisms may operate in vivo to limit the proinflammatory properties of chemokines. Therapies that target chemokines directly or enhance the body's mechanisms for controlling their activity may prove to be reasonable approaches for treatment of inflammatory diseases.