The epithelium of the human oviduct expresses the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II and shows endocytic properties towards luminal antigens. Therefore, the epithelial cells might behave as antigen-presenting cells, inducing a local immune response. The activation of antigen-specific T cells not only requires presentation of the peptide antigen by MHC class II, but also the presence of co-stimulatory molecules in the antigen-presenting cells. Therefore, the expression of the intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) was examined in the epithelium of the human oviduct. Most oviducts showed epithelial ICAM-1 expression, as assessed by immunocytochemistry, western blot analysis and RT-PCR assay, and the expression was restricted to the luminal border of ciliated and secretory cells. Interferon γ, interleukin 1 and lipopolysaccharide treatments increased the percentage of ICAM-1-positive cells in primary cultures, indicating that the expression of ICAM-1 in the oviduct might be upregulated in vivo by inflammatory cytokines or bacterial infections. Binding assays between allogenic phytohaemagglutinin-activated lymphocytes and epithelial monolayers expressing ICAM-1 demonstrated that this molecule stimulated lymphocyte adherence. The presence of ICAM-1, in addition to MHC class II, supports the putative role of the oviductal epithelium in antigen presentation. The exclusive apical distribution of ICAM-1 indicates that T-cell activation would occur in a polarized manner. Binding of lymphoid cells to the surface of the oviductal epithelium may help to retain these immune cells that are required for the clearance of pathogens.