The expression of HLA-DR, HLA-DP and HLA-DQ antigens and of the associated invariant chain (Ii) was studied immunohistologically in sessile cells of normal ileum and ileum affected by Crohn's disease which was taken as a model for chronic inflammation. Corresponding to the local inflammatory cell density, a considerable neo-expression of MHC class II antigens and Ii was observed in epithelial cells, vascular endothelial cells, and Schwann cells of the enteric nerve plexus. While HLA-DP and HLA-DQ antigens were undetectable in sessile cells of normal ileum, class II antigens expression in ileitis followed the order HLA-DR greater than or equal to HLA-DP greater than or equal to HLA-DQ. In various cell types a differential expression of Ii and class II antigens was noted. In normal crypt enterocytes and in arterial endothelial cells of inflamed ileum, Ii was found in the absence of class II antigens. On the other hand, most Schwann cells and internodal nerve strands of the submucous and myenteric plexus exhibited HLA-DR (-DP, -DQ) antigens in the absence of detectable Ii. Moreover, HLA-DR+ endothelial cells in normal tissue specimens were Ii-, and in inflamed intestine HLA-DR expression of venous/venular and capillary endothelium greatly exceeded Ii expression. The observation of both Ii+/HLA-DR- and Ii-/HLA-DR+ (HLA-DP+, HLA-DQ+) cells questions the previously assumed close association of Ii and class II antigen expression.