The aim of this study was to investigate sRANKL and OPG levels in serum and synovial fluid (SF) and to evaluate their relations in patients with RA in comparison to those with non-erosive arthritis (NEA). The study included 45 unselected RA patients with knee joint effusions and 27 patients with knee joint effusions because of NEA. Serum and SF samples were investigated isochronously. OPG and sRANKL were measured by ELISA assays. In RA, sRANKL levels were higher in serum than in SF (P = 0.007). In contrast, the NEA revealed higher sRANKL in SF compared to the serum (P = 0.001). Though in RA the average levels of sRANKL(ser) were 5.6 times and of sRANKL(syn) 1.5 times higher than in NEA, the differences were not significant. The free (unbound) OPG in SF was not significantly different in RA compared to NEA. Also in serum, the measured free OPG was only slightly higher in RA. There were no significant differences between RA and NEA concerning ESR and CRP. Significant correlations could be found between sRANKL(syn )and CRP (r = 0.453; P = 0.005) as well as ESR (r = 0.362; P = 0.033) in RA. Nearly a positive correlation was evident also between sRANKL(syn) and CRP in NEA (r = 0.520; P = 0.08). RA and NEA differ in particular concerning their power and intensity to destruct the juxtaarticular bone. This is the most remarkable finding of this study, that in RA a high part of sRANKL seems to be OPG bound and cleared by the blood stream, but the sRANKL neutralizing capacity of produced OPG in opposite to NEA is not sufficient to prevent osteoclast activation and bone destruction in the RA joint.