Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a family of polypeptides which are induced in response to diverse forms of cell injury including hyperthermia, anoxia, ethanol, heavy metals, and others, with a presumably protective function. Among several species of HSPs, the 70 kD protein (HSP70) is the most abundant and consistently induced in mammalian cells. Anti-HSP70 monoclonal antibody and a standard immunocytochemical method were used to study the expression of HSP70 in 28 surgical specimens of small and large intestines from patients with ischaemic bowel disease. Strong immunoreactivity was observed in viable, regenerating cells of both the crypt and surface epithelium within or adjacent to the necrotic foci in 86 per cent of the ischaemic bowel specimens. Staining was mostly cytoplasmic, but focally both cytoplasmic and nuclear. Smooth muscle cells of the muscularis mucosae in the ischaemic areas of some cases also showed immunoreactivity. On the other hand, HSP70 was not expressed in control specimens of small and large intestine or in colonic specimens of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and adenocarcinoma. These findings suggest a possible role of HSP70 in intestinal epithelial and smooth muscle cell response to ischaemic injury, especially in the recovery phase.