The integrins are alpha beta heterodimeric transmembrane proteins mediating cell-substratum as well as cell-cell interactions. Changes in their expression and/or function seem to occur in a number of malignant epithelial neoplasms and may in part explain their abnormal patterns of growth and differentiation. Using monoclonal antibodies to the beta 1 (DH12), alpha 1 (TS2/7), alpha 2 (B1.515), and alpha 3 (E1.56) integrin chains, the alpha 1 beta 1 (VLA-1), alpha 2 beta 1 (VLA-2), and alpha 3 beta 1 (VLA-3) integrin receptors were studied on cryostat sections of 22 basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and adjacent normal tissues by a standard peroxidase-antiperoxidase technique. In non-neoplastic skin, VLA-2 and VLA-3 were found in the basal layer, eccrine glands, and cells of the outer root sheath in which VLA-1 was detected. In BCCs, there was a considerably higher expression of VLA-2 and VLA-3 compared with epidermal basal cells but similar to that seen in hair bulb and outer root sheath. In two cases of nodular BCC showing evidence of regression, both VLA-2 and VLA-3 were completely negative, in contrast to non-regressing foci which were strongly positive. The high level of expression of two adhesion molecules (VLA-2 and VLA-3) involved in cell-substratum as well as cell-cell interactions may account for the more indolent pattern of growth characteristic of BCC and perhaps reflect its high degree of differentiation towards the hair follicle.