To reveal the mechanism of the lesser infiltration of monocytes in synovial cavities with rheumatoid arthritis despite the presence of chronic inflammation, the synovial fluid from 15 rheumatoid arthritis patients was analyzed with respect to leukocyte chemotaxis. The synovial fluid possessed strong chemotactic activity to polymorphonuclear leukocytes but rather suppressed one to monocytes. The synovial fluid contained two different inhibitory activities in monocyte chemotaxis. One, which also suppressed polymorphonuclear leukocyte chemotaxis, was identified as alpha 1 protease inhibitor. The other, with molecular weight of 8 kd, possessed the specificity to monocytes and shared the antigenicity with complement C4 but not with C3 or C5. A similar inhibitor was generated in normal human plasma when the classical pathway of the complement system was initiated with aggregated human IgG, while it was not when alternative pathway was initiated with zymosan. The small size factor in the synovial fluid, apparently derived from C4, seemed to be a cyto-directed factor that might block an early part of signal transduction system of monocytes in the chemotaxis. After removal of the small-size inhibitor, the synovial fluid exhibited chemotactic ability to monocytes. Therefore the apparent C4-derived factor might play a key role in the polymorphonuclear leukocyte-predominant infiltration in the synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis.