The prevalence of anoperineal diseases, i.e. sexual transmitted infections, is increasing particularly in AIDS, a fact which is likely due to the alteration of mucosal immunity. However, no data were available on normal anal status. In order to study anal immunity in man, we characterized lymphocytes subtypes and Langerhans' cells (LC) using quantitative morphometric analysis and immunohistochemistry. Anal normal mucosal samples obtained from surgical specimens of 45 patients (30 suffering from hemorrhoids and 15 from fissurations) were analyzed. Immunohistochemistry was performed on frozen sections with antibodies recognizing CD1a (LC), CD3 (T lymphocytes), CD4 (T4), CD8 (T8) and CD22 (B-lymphocytes). Immunostained cells were counted per square millimeter of mucosal epithelium. The surface of CD1a cells was measured using a computerized software program and a percentage of CD1a immunostained area was calculated in comparison to the whole mucosal surface. LC and T-Lymphocytes were found in the squamous epithelium in all analyzed samples. The mean values of LC number were 84.13 +/- 9.6 and 64.77 +/- 9.8 in hemorroid- and fissure-patients, respectively. The mean values of LC area (% of CD1a stained area over total mucosal surface) were 3.89 +/- 0.44 and 4.84 +/- 0.64, respectively. In the two groups, the number of intraepithelial CD8 lymphocytes was higher than that of CD4 lymphocytes. These data suggest for the first time that anal mucosa could be considered as a part of MALT system.