The oral cavity is exposed to a variety of environmental insults. Salivary secretions play a critical role in maintaining oral health via innate host defense mechanisms and secretion of secretory IgA. Human beta-defensins (hBD) are antimicrobial peptides that are a component of the innate immune response; they are expressed in epithelia and are proposed to have a role in mucosal defense. hBD-1 mRNA is constitutively expressed in numerous mucosal tissues, including human gingiva and submandibular and parotid glands. Our objective was to detect the expression and localization of hBD-1 peptide in human salivary glands and in saliva. Minor salivary gland tissue was obtained from biopsies of patients with mucoceles (n = 20). hBD-1 peptide was detected by immunohistochemistry; expression was localized to the ductal cells and not the acinar cells of these glands. The peptide was located apically, toward the lumen in the duct cells. Further evaluation showed stronger hBD-1 expression in ducts with periductal inflammation, as indicated by the immunostaining of serial sections with anti-CD45 specific for B- and T-lymphocytes. Statistical analysis showed a strong correlation of hBD-1 staining and inflammation. Results of immunolocalization suggest that hBD-1 functions to protect salivary glands from retrograde infection, that expression of the peptide is enhanced in inflamed sites, and that post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms may be involved in hBD-1 peptide expression. Western immunoblot analysis also detected hBD-1 peptide in unstimulated, whole, acidified saliva from normal volunteers. However, hBD-1 peptide associated with salivary mucin resulted in loss of the detection in a dot-immunoblot assay. Association of hBD-1 with salivary mucin may facilitate peptide distribution and adherence to oral surfaces and aid its function within the oral cavity.