Recent studies have identified the integrin alpha 4 beta 7 as a mucosal homing receptor that mediates lymphocyte migration to the intestinal mucosa by binding to MAdCAM-1, a vascular recognition molecule (addressin) selectively expressed on mucosal endothelium. In the present study, we have assessed the expression of alpha 4 beta 7 on B- and T-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas of different primary localization and on related normal lymphocytes. Among B-lineage lymphomas, expression of alpha 4 beta 7 was present in the majority of cases of malignant lymphomatous polyposis of the intestine and low-grade lymphoma of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue/monocytoid B-cell lymphoma and in some cases of precursor B-cell lymphoma. CLL/small lymphocytic lymphoma, (nodal) mantle cell lymphoma, follicular center cell lymphoma, Burkitt's lymphoma, and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma were virtually always alpha 4 beta 7 negative, as was the case when localized in the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue. The normal B cells of the follicle mantles and part of the B cells of the extrafollicular B-cell compartment of lymphoid tissues expressed moderate levels of alpha 4 beta 7. By contrast, follicular center cells were alpha 4 beta 7 negative. Among T-lineage lymphomas, expression of alpha 4 beta 7 was also strongly related to the primary localization; in mucosal, nodal, and cutaneous T cell lymphomas the percentage of positive cases was 56%, 17%, and 0%, respectively. All cases of precursor T-cell lymphoma were alpha 4 beta 7 negative. High expression of alpha 4 beta 7 was found on a subset of peripheral blood memory T cells as well as on lymphocytes in the intestinal mucosa. We conclude that non-Hodgkin's lymphomas that are related to mucosa-associated B- and T-lymphocyte populations selectively express the mucosal homing receptor alpha 4 beta 7. The presence of this receptor underscores their distinctive character and may play an important role in determining their characteristic mucosal dissemination pattern.