Chemokines and their receptors play an important role in the process of leucocyte recruitment at sites of inflammation. However, recent evidence suggests that these proteins can also regulate non-leucocyte cell functions such as angiogenesis, migration and proliferation. We have investigated the expression of the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) on primary cultures of type II alveolar epithelial cells, their transformed counterpart, the A549 cell line and also on other epithelial cell lines from various tissues. We found that all epithelial cell types tested express mRNA for CXCR4. Flow cytometric analysis and immunocytochemical staining shows that CXCR4 chemokine receptor is abundantly expressed on the surface of A549 epithelial cells. Furthermore, A549 cells responded to the CXCR4 ligand, stromal-derived factor-1α (SDF-1α) with a rapid and robust calcium mobilization and not to other CXC chemokines, suggesting that CXCR4 is functionally active and is able to couple to G-protein signalling mechanisms. A549 cells did not proliferate in response to either SDF-1α or interleukin-8 (IL-8) CXC chemokines. These findings may have important implications for epithelial physiology and pathology.