The expression of adhesion molecules on central nervous system (CNS) vessels was examined during chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the SJL mouse. Two molecules associated with cell adhesion were studied: MECA-325, a murine lymph node high endothelial venule marker; and MALA-2, the murine homologue of intercellular adhesion molecule 1. During initial disease, upregulated coexpression of these two molecules occurred in the CNS. This correlated with inflammatory cell invasion. During remission, expression was downregulated, and each subsequent relapse was accompanied by corresponding upregulation. Thus, up- and downregulation of adhesion molecules in the target organ appeared to form an integral part of the inflammatory process in this autoimmune condition and support a role for receptor-mediated inflammatory cell invasion of relevance to the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.