Forearm skin biopsies were obtained from diabetic subjects with and without limited joint mobility, and from non-diabetic control subjects. Collagen purified from these samples was assayed for non-enzymatic glycosylation. The level in all diabetic patients was significantly greater than that in control subjects (p less than 0.001), but those diabetic patients with limited joint mobility had a level of collagen glycosylation similar to that in those with normal joints (15.3 +/- 1.3 and 16.5 +/- 1.3 nmol fructose/10 mg protein, respectively; mean +/- SEM). Glycosylation of collagen in the diabetic patients correlated with glycosylated haemoglobin measured at the time of skin biopsy (r = 0.60). These results do not support the hypothesis that non-enzymatic glycosylation of collagen, as reflected by the ketoamine link, plays an important role in the development of limited joint mobility in diabetes.