Systemically administered interleukin (IL)-12 causes liver inflammation in mice characterized by Kupffer cell proliferation and hypertrophy, hepatocyte necrosis, and multifocal accumulations of leukocytes in the hepatic parenchyma and around portal tracts and central veins. We have used both immunohistochemical staining and radiolabeled antibody quantitation to examine adhesion molecule expression in the livers of mice dosed daily with murine IL-12. Cells infiltrating livers of IL-12-treated mice were primarily mononuclear leukocytes expressing LFA-1, VLA-4, MAC-1, and CD18 adhesion molecules but little L-selectin. Kupffer cells constitutively expressed LFA-1 and smaller amounts of MAC-1, and high levels of ICAM-1 were constitutively expressed by liver sinusoidal lining cells, portal tract, and central vein endothelia. With IL-12 treatment, existing ICAM-1 expression was up-regulated and de novo expression occurred along bile duct epithelia. VCAM-1 levels were dramatically increased, with induced expression occurring along portal tract and central vein endothelia and scattered bile duct epithelial cells and in aggregations of cells in perivascular areas and the liver parenchyma. Although constitutive expression of E- and P-selectin was negligible, Il-12 induced a moderate rise in E-selectin levels. These increases in adhesion molecule expression may have implications for the therapeutic use of IL-12, especially in patients with liver disease or autoimmune conditions where augmented adhesion molecule expression may be critical to disease pathogenesis.