There is mounting evidence for a role of the growth factor granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in inflammatory disease, including arthritis. In the present study, we examined the effectiveness of treatment of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) with a neutralizing mAb to GM-CSF. DBA/1 mice were immunized for the development of CIA and treated at different times, and with different doses, with neutralizing mAb to GM-CSF or isotype control mAb. Anti-GM-CSF mAb treatment prior to the onset of arthritis, at the time of antigen challenge, was effective at ameliorating the ensuing disease. Modulation of arthritis was seen predominantly as a reduction in overall disease severity, both in terms of the number of limbs affected per mouse and the clinical score of affected limbs. Importantly, anti-GM-CSF mAb treatment ameliorated existing disease, seen both as a reduction in the number of initially affected limbs progressing and lower numbers of additional limbs becoming affected. By histology, both inflammation and cartilage destruction were reduced in anti-GM-CSF-treated mice, and the levels of tumor necrosis factor-a and IL-1beta were also reduced in joint tissue washouts of these mice. Neither humoral nor cellular immunity to type II collagen, however, was affected by anti-GM-CSF mAb treatment. These results suggest that the major effect of GM-CSF in CIA is on mediating the effector phase of the inflammatory reaction to type II collagen. The results also highlight the essential role of GM-CSF in the ongoing development of inflammation and arthritis in CIA, with possible therapeutic implications for rheumatoid arthritis.