In this study we examined the cytokine production by T cells and TCRVbeta subsets in peripheral blood (PB) and synovial fluid (SF) from six RA patients and PB from 10 normal subjects, using three-colour flow cytometry. In two RA subjects we assessed T cell clonality by RT PCR using TCRBV family-specific primers and analysed the CDR3 (complementarity determining region 3) length by GeneScan analysis. A high percentage of IFN-gamma- and IL-2- producing cells was observed among the PB T cells in both the RA patients and normal controls and among the SF T cells in RA patients. In contrast, the percentage of T cells producing IL-4 and IL-5 was small among PB T cells in both RA patients and normal controls and among SF T cells in RA patients. There was no significant difference in the production of IFN-gamma, IL-2 and IL-5 between the two compartments (PB and SF); however, there were significantly more IL-4-producing cells in SF. Molecular analysis revealed clonal expansions of four TCRBV families in SF of two of the RA patients studied: TCRBV6.7, TCRBV13.1 and TCRBV22 in one and TCRBV6.7, TCRBV21.3 and TCRBV22 in the second. These expansions demonstrated cytokine expression profiles that differed from total CD3+ cells, implying that T cell subsets bearing various TCR-Vbeta families may have the potential to modulate the immune response in RA patients.