Regulated emigration of blood-borne leukocytes plays a defining role in lymphoid organ development, immune surveillance, and inflammatory responses. We report here that mice deficient in the homeobox gene Nkx2-3, expressed in developing visceral mesoderm, show a complex intestinal malabsorption phenotype and striking abnormalities of gut-associated lymphoid tissue and spleen suggestive of deranged leukocyte homing. Mutant Peyer's patches were reduced in number and size, intestinal villi contained few IgA(+) plasma cells, and mutant spleens were small and often atrophic, showing fused periarterial lymphoid sheaths, partially merged T and B cell zones, an absent marginal zone, and a dearth of macrophages in red pulp. Semiquantitative RT-PCR analysis and immunohistochemistry revealed down-regulation of mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule-1 (MAdCAM-1) in endothelial cells in which Nkx2-3 is normally expressed. MAdCAM-1 is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily, acting as an endothelial cell ligand for leukocyte homing receptors L-selectin and alpha4beta7 integrin. Our data suggest a role for a homeodomain factor in establishing the developmental and positional cues in endothelia that regulate leukocyte homing through local control of cellular adhesion and identify MAdCAM-1 as a candidate target gene of Nkx2-3.