In the guinea pig, experimental allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) and primary irritant contact dermatitis (PICD) were induced with different concentrations of dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB). The epidermal Langerhans' cells (LCs) were observed sequentially by both adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) and electron microscopy. Light microscopically, in ACD, the density and dendritic processes of LC decreased markedly within 12 h after antigen challenge. Almost no recognization LCs could be seen within 2 to 5 days. Later, LCs began to repopulate in the epidermis. Within 14 days, the density and shape of the LCs returned to normal. On the contrary, LCs changed more rapidly in PICD. The dendritic processes of LC decreased within 2 h and cell density decreased dramatically within 6 h after DNCB application. LCs also repopulated more rapidly in the epidermis. Electron microscopically, in ACD, we observed that lymphocyte-like cells apposed to LCs; LCs were activated and damaged; however, in PICD, we found neither the apposition of lymphocyte-like cells to LCs, nor the activation of LCs. LCs play an important role in the convalescence phase as well as in the early and later phases of contact allergic reaction.