The possible aetiological role of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in Crohn's disease was investigated. The immunological response was studied using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), Western blotting, and immunocytochemistry. The antibody response to two protoplasmic antigen preparations of M paratuberculosis in the sera of patients with inflammatory bowel disease was measured by ELISA. IgG and IgM antibodies to these antigens were measured in serum samples from 52 patients with Crohn's disease, 15 patients with ulcerative colitis, and 41 control patients without inflammatory bowel disease. Although there was wide variation in the concentrations of antibody detected, patients with Crohn's disease had concentrations that were not significantly different from those of the other two groups. In addition, mycobacterial antigens were separated by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and the immune response to each antigen was then examined separately and assayed for IgG and IgM in 10 patients from each of the three groups. An indirect peroxidase test was also used to detect M paratuberculosis in sections of tissue from 18 patients with Crohn's disease and 10 with ulcerative colitis. The results were negative in all cases. This study does not support a role for M paratuberculosis in Crohn's disease.