In this study we have characterised the local inflammatory response in acute suppurative appendicitis (S), focal appendicitis (F), and normal appendices (C). Enumeration of lymphocyte subpopulations, cells expressing IL-2 receptor, natural killer (NK) cells, monocytes and plasma cell isotypes and subclasses infiltrating the lamina propria was carried out on all specimens using immunoperoxidase staining procedures. Total T cells were significantly increased in both acute suppurative appendicitis and focal appendicitis compared with controls (p < 0.001). Cells infiltrating the lamina propria expressed IL-2 receptor in all appendiceal specimens but were significantly increased in both acute and focal appendicitis (p < 0.01). IgG and IgA plasma cell isotypes were significantly increased in all S and F appendiceal specimens (p < 0.001). Monocyte and NK cell numbers, however, were only increased in acute suppurative appendiceal specimens. The increased lymphocyte and plasma cell isotypes seen in focal appendicitis occurred throughout the entire organ even through the inflammatory focus was confined to only three to seven serial sections. These results clearly show a differential pattern of cellular infiltration in focal appendicitis from that seen in acute suppurative appendicitis. The selective lymphocyte and plasma cell nature of the cellular infiltrate in the lamina propria of focal appendicitis may reflect the presence of a specific immune response to an as yet unidentified luminal antigen as a possible cause of appendicitis.