MCP-1 has potent chemotactic activity for monocytes and is strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In the present study, we have used in situ hybridisation to examine the gene expression of JE, the murine homologue of MCP-1, and its receptor, CCR2, during the development of atherosclerotic lesions in the ApoE knockout mouse. Interestingly, the earliest expression of JE detected during lesion development was found to be localised in mesenchymal cells in the adventitia and not in the intima. Macrophages were subsequently found to accumulate in these affected regions of the adventitia and these cells were found to express high levels of JE. At this stage, early macrophage-rich lesions with high expression of JE were also seen in the intima, but expression of mRNA for the receptor for JE (CCR2) was only found on adventitial macrophages and not in the intima. This sequence of events suggests that adventitial inflammation may be an important early event in lesion development and responsible for the subsequent accumulation of macrophages in the intima possibly by recruitment from the adventitia as well as via the vessel lumen.