We have characterized the lymphocytes in the synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by immunohistochemistry using monoclonal antibodies directed against B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, and antibodies directed against CD45RA and CD45RO, which define T-cell subsets. Both CD45RA+ and CD45RO+ T lymphocytes were detected in the perivascular regions. CD45RA+ lymphocytes were present primarily in perivascular areas of moderate to large lymphocytic infiltration. Some synovial perivascular lymphocytic aggregates were organized into focal areas of CD45RA+ B lymphocytes surrounded by CD45RO+ T lymphocytes. In areas of diffuse lymphocytic infiltration, the T lymphocytes were CD45RO+. These data suggest that both CD45RO+ and CD45RA+ T lymphocytes enter the RA synovial tissue via the synovial vasculature and that, once in the tissue, the CD45RA+ T lymphocytes may undergo activation/maturation and acquire the CD45RO phenotype.