We have examined the distribution of a range of integrin subunits in normal and lesional oral mucosa. The alpha 2, alpha 3, alpha 6, beta 1, and beta 4 subunits were highly expressed in normal epithelium, and there was weaker, more variable expression of alpha 5 and alpha v. Expression of all subunits was highest in the basal layer of normal epithelium, but extensive staining above the basal layer was also observed, particularly in the floor of the mouth and the lateral margin of the tongue. In dysplastic lesions and hyperplastic epithelium adjacent to ulcers, suprabasal staining was even more pronounced. Staining patterns in squamous cell carcinomas showed considerable variation, both within and between individual tumours: in some areas there was staining reminiscent of normal epithelium, but uniform staining throughout tumour islands, and patchy and variable cytoplasmic and pericellular staining were also seen. Thirteen out of 17 carcinomas showed some loss of integrin expression: six out of ten moderately well differentiated tumours and all the poorly differentiated tumours. Focal loss of alpha 6 and beta 4 was most commonly observed, but loss of alpha 2 and alpha 3 also occurred. Since integrins regulate not only keratinocyte adhesion, but also the initiation of terminal differentiation, the changes in integrin expression that we have observed may have significance for the behaviour of individual tumours.