Interactions with endothelium are necessary for leukocytes to pass from the blood into extravascular tissues, and such interactions are facilitated in inflammation by the coordinated expression of endothelial adhesion molecules and chemoattractants. Although the general mechanisms and intracellular pathways of endothelial activation are now fairly well characterised in vitro, relatively little detailed information exists on how endothelial activation changes during the course of inflammatory responses and how such change influences the amount of leukocyte recruitment and the types of leukocytes recruited. Having developed a radiolabelled-antibody-uptake technique for quantifying the expression of endothelial adhesion molecules in relation to leukocyte trafficking, we have analysed the acute, self-limiting inflammatory response to injection of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals. Our studies have supported the view that endothelial activation is closely paralleled by leukocyte recruitment at the onset of the response and have highlighted separate vascular and extravascular stages of downregulation. More recent studies addressing the extravascular contribution to downregulation point to an important role for monocyte–macrophage differentiation in limiting further endothelial activation as a consequence of phagocytosis of MSU crystals.