After a single intraperitoneal injection of cell wall fragments of Eubacterium aerofaciens, a main resident from the human intestinal flora, an acute arthritis develops within 2 days which is followed by a chronic arthritis that lasts at least 90 days. In an earlier report the histological appearance of the joint inflammation during this period has been described. In this study we investigated in more detail the cell types that are involved in the development of arthritis by using cell-type-specific monoclonal antibodies in an immunohistological assay. In the acute phase of arthritis, T-helper cells appeared in the synovial tissue together with ED1-positive (ED1+) and ED3-positive (ED3+) macrophages. After a temporary decline at day 12 all macrophage subsets, as well as T-helper cells, reappeared or increased again at day 33. Later, in the chronic phase (days 47-90), an increased number of ED1-positive (ED1+) cells in the synovial tissue and a decreased number of ED2-positive (ED2+) cells in the synovial lining was the most prominent finding when compared with control rats. These results indicate that, apart from T lymphocytes, macrophages also play an important role in the development and continuation of chronic arthritis in this model.