The aim of this study was to assess the synovial fluid (SF) neurotransmitter excitatory amino acid (EAA) levels, including glutamate (Glu) and aspartate (Asp), in the context of SF levels of other amino acids, TNF-alpha and chemokines from patients with active arthropathies. The SF was collected from patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, or osteoarthritis (OA). The SF samples were analysed for levels of neurotransmitters glutamate and aspartate, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), Regulated upon Activation Normally T-cell Expressed and Secreted (RANTES), macrophage inhibitory factor-1 alpha (MIP-1alpha) and interleukin 8 (IL-8). SF WBC counts were also determined. Correlations between SF EAA, TNF-alpha and chemokines were determined by the Pearson product-moment correlation. Primary cultures derived from SF from active RA and gout patients were incubated with added l-glutamate, to assess if exposure to Glu could increase TNF-alpha levels. There were significant elevations in SF EAA, SF TNF-alpha and SF RANTES in RA patients compared to gout or OA patients. Significant correlations between SF EAA and SF RANTES, MIP-1alpha and IL-8 levels were seen, and SF EAA and SF TNF-alpha or SF WBC levels approached significance. Addition of exogenous neurotransmitter glutamate significantly increased TNF-alpha levels in primary cell cultures derived from RA and gout patients. The SF neurotransmitter EAA levels significantly correlated to selected SF chemokine levels, in clinically active RA, gout and OA patients, independent of disease. Added Glu resulted in significantly increased TNF-alpha levels in primary synovial cell cultures. These data expand the relationship of SF neurotransmitter EAA levels to SF cytokines and chemokines in patients with clinically active arthritis, and suggest that neurotransmitters Glu and Asp contribute to peripheral inflammatory processes.