The integrin alpha v beta 6 is only expressed in epithelial cells. In healthy adult epithelia, this receptor is barely detectable, but expression is rapidly induced following epithelial injury. Mice homozygous for a null mutation in the gene encoding the beta 6 subunit had juvenile baldness associated with infiltration of macrophages into the skin, and accumulated activated lymphocytes around conducting airways in the lungs. Beta 6-/- mice also demonstrated airway hyperresponsiveness to acetylcholine, a hallmark feature of asthma. These results suggest that the epithelial integrin alpha v beta 6 participates in the modulation of epithelial inflammation. Genetic or acquired alterations in this integrin could thus contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases of epithelial organs, such as the lungs and skin.