The acute host response to gastrointestinal infection with invasive bacteria is characterized by an accumulation of neutrophils in the lamina propria, and neutrophil transmigration to the luminal side of the crypts. Intestinal epithelial cells play an important role in the recruitment of inflammatory cells to the site of infection through the secretion of chemokines. However, little is known regarding the expression, by epithelial cells, of molecules that are involved in interactions between the epithelium and neutrophils following bacterial invasion. We report herein that expression of ICAM-1 on human colon epithelial cell lines, and on human enterocytes in an in vivo model system, is upregulated following infection with invasive bacteria. Increased ICAM-1 expression in the early period (4-9 h) after infection appeared to result mainly from a direct interaction between invaded bacteria and host epithelial cells since it co-localized to cells invaded by bacteria, and the release of soluble factors by epithelial cells played only a minor role in mediating increased ICAM-1 expression. Furthermore, ICAM-1 was expressed on the apical side of polarized intestinal epithelial cells, and increased expression was accompanied by increased neutrophil adhesion to these cells. ICAM-1 expression by intestinal epithelial cells following infection with invasive bacteria may function to maintain neutrophils that have transmigrated through the epithelium in close contact with the intestinal epithelium, thereby reducing further invasion of the mucosa by invading pathogens.