In a mouse model of herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 corneal infection, tissue destruction results from a CD4+ T cell-mediated chronic inflammation, in which interleukin 2 and interferon (IFN) gamma are requisite inflammatory mediators and polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) are the predominant infiltrating cells. In vivo neutralization of IFN-gamma relieved inflammation at least in part through a specific block of PMN extravasation into HSV-1-infected corneas. Intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) 1 and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM) 1 were upregulated on the vascular endothelium of inflamed corneas. Reduced PMN extravasation in anti-IFN-gamma-treated mice was associated with a dramatic reduction of PECAM-1 but not ICAM-1 expression on vascular endothelium. PMN accumulated in the lumen of corneal vessels after in vivo IFN-gamma neutralization. PECAM-1 was readily detectable on PMN inside the vessels but was not detectable on PMN that extravasated into the infected cornea. Moreover, flow cytometric analysis revealed reduced PECAM-1 expression but elevated major histocompatibility complex class I expression on PMN that recently extravasated into the peritoneal cavity when compared with PMN in the peripheral blood. We conclude that IFN-gamma contributes to HSV-1-induced corneal inflammation by facilitating PMN infiltration; this appears to be accomplished through upregulation of PECAM-1 expression on the vascular endothelium; and PMN downregulate PECAM-1 expression during the process of extravasation.