Adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats is associated with growth failure, hypermetabolism and accelerated protein breakdown. The aim of this work was to study the effects of adjuvant-induced arthritis on GH and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). Arthritis was induced by an intradermal injection of complete Freund's adjuvant and rats were killed 18 and 22 days later. IGF-I and GH levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. Pituitary GH mRNA was analyzed by northern blot and IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) by western blot. Arthritic rats showed a decrease in both serum and hepatic concentrations of IGF-I. On the contrary, arthritis increased the circulating IGFBPs. The serum concentration of IGF-I in the arthritic rats was negatively correlated with the body weight loss observed in these animals. Arthritis decreased the serum concentration of GH and this decrease seems to be due to an inhibition of GH synthesis, since pituitary GH mRNA content was decreased in arthritic rats (p<0.01). These data suggest that the decrease in body weight gain in arthritic rats may be, at least in part, secondary to the decrease in GH and IGF-I secretion. Furthermore, the increased serum IGFBPs may also be involved in the disease process.