OBJECTIVE To investigate the role of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) in the accumulation of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) in the lungs at the early stage of burns. METHODS Myeloperoxidase content in lung tissues and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were detected. ICAM-1 and its mRNA expression in lung tissues were determined by immunohistochemical method and in situ hybridization. CD11b/CD18 expression on the peripheral PMNs was measured by flow cytometry. RESULTS The levels of myeloperoxidase in lung tissues and BALF after burn injury were markedly higher than those of control. Expression of ICAM-1 and its mRNA in the lung tissues and CD11b/CD18 on peripheral PMNs surface was significantly increased at 2, 6, 12, 24 h after burns. CONCLUSIONS PMNs accumulation in the lungs is related to increased ICAM-1 expression on pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells and CD11b/CD18 expression on PMN at the early stage of burn injury.