BAL lymphocyte percentages, quantitated gallium-67 lung uptake, and SACE levels have all been proposed as measures of disease activity in sarcoidosis. We analyzed 32 paired sera and BAL fluids from sarcoidosis patients by high-resolution agarose electrophoresis to look for protein changes characteristic of systemic or local inflammation and compared the results with those from the above tests. Nine patients (group 1) had serum inflammatory protein changes and increased total protein, albumin, beta 1-globulin (transferrin), and gamma-globulin levels in fluid recovered by BAL. Thirteen patients (group 2) had normal protein levels in sera but abnormal protein levels in BAL specimens. Ten patients (group 3) had normal protein levels in sera and in BAL specimens. Patients in groups 1 and 2 had a disproportionate increase in beta 1-globulin (transferrin) and gamma-globulin levels in their BAL specimens. The BAL lymphocyte percentage changes paralleled the BAL protein level changes, suggesting relationships among the immunoregulatory role of these cells, increased local immunoglobulin synthesis, and the pathogenesis of altered alveolar permeability. Gallium-67 uptake was highest in patients with serum inflammatory protein changes. Thus, systemic inflammation may facilitate pulmonary gallium-67 uptake, possibly by changes in BAL fluid or serum transferrin saturation and/or kinetics. SACE levels showed no relationship to changes in the levels of serum or BAL proteins. These data suggest that the various proposed measures of disease activity reflect different aspects of inflammation in sarcoidosis.