This study has addressed the question of whether there is selective recruitment and distribution of intra-epithelial leucocytes in lesions of oral lichen planus (OLP). T-lymphocyte subsets were examined in the epithelium and peripheral blood of patients and control using flow cytometry and double immunofluorescence, and the relationship between keratinocyte intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) expression with T-lymphocyte and Langerhans cell (LC) distribution was examined. The circulating 'memory' subset (CD45RO+) of T-helper cells (CD4+) was increased from 49.1% in controls to 65.7% in patients (P = 0.005), while the'naive' subset (CD45RA+), which was absent from control epithelium, comprised 24% of helper cells in OLP (P=0.016). Fewer LC expressed CD45RO in OLP than in controls (P=0.037) and all T-cell and LC counts were significantly raised in ICAM-1-expressing areas of epithelium. These data demonstrate changes in intra-epithelial T-lymphocyte and LC populations compared with normal oral mucosa and suggest there is selective recruitment in OLP. In addition, keratinocyte ICAM-1 expression does appear to be associated with accumulation of infiltrating T lymphocytes and LC.