Expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) appears to be important to the development of bronchial hyperresponsiveness and eosinophilia in Ascaris sensitized monkeys. Beta 1-integrins are expressed on epithelial cells, and may contribute to adherence of epithelial cells to the basement membrane. The aim of this study was to determine whether adhesion receptor expression was altered in human asthmatic bronchial epithelium. Using monoclonal antibody staining, we have examined the expression of ICAM-1 and the alpha 1-alpha 6-subunits of the beta 1-integrin family in bronchial mucosal biopsies from 33 asthmatic and 13 nonasthmatic subjects. The epithelium was positive for ICAM-1 in 26 out of 33 asthmatics, although negative in all 13 nonasthmatics. ICAM-1 expression was not associated with bronchial responsiveness or with medication requirements. Beta 1-integrin staining showed that alpha 2-, alpha 3- and alpha 6-subunits stained the epithelium in all cases. Alpha 4 staining was weakly positive in the epithelium in five asthmatics. Alpha 5 staining was weak in asthmatics and normals. Alpha 4 and alpha 6-subunits also stained inflammatory cells. Epithelial upregulation of ICAM-1 is present in asthma. Beta 1-integrins with alpha 2-, alpha 3- and alpha 6-subunits appear to be constitutively expressed in bronchial epithelium.