Mucosal changes in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are characterized by ulcerative lesions accompanied by prominent cellular infiltrates in the bowel wall. Chemokines are chemotactic cytokines that are able to promote leukocyte migration to areas of inflammation and are also able to initiate cell activation events. They have recently been implicated in the pathophysiology of many disease states. The aim of this study was to detail the degree and distribution of specific chemokines, interleukin (IL)-8, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, -2, and -3, and macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1α and -1β, in IBD mucosa. Thirty-nine patients were included, ten controls, 20 ulcerative colitis (UC), and nine Crohn's disease (CD), with a range of disease activity. Colonic mucosal biopsies were collected from UC, CD, and control patients and embedded in glycol methacrylate. Two-micrometre-thick sections were cut and stained using immunohistochemistry for chemokine protein expression. Sections were analysed using a light microscope. Expression of all types of chemokine protein was detected in colonic mucosa from both control and IBD patients. Patterns of staining between IBD patients and controls differed significantly, but CD and UC patients demonstrated similar patterns of staining. Individual chemokine expression was found to be significantly up-regulated in IBD when patients were compared with the non-diseased group in all areas of the mucosal sections. Up-regulated chemokine expression correlated with increasing activity of the disease. It is concluded that human colonic chemokine expression is non-selectively up-regulated in IBD. The results supported the hypothesis that the degree of local inflammation and tissue damage in UC and CD is dependent on local expression of specific chemokines within IBD tissues. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.