We have used monoclonal antibodies of the orthoclone (OKT) series to identify T cell subsets in an immunohistological analysis of the synovial membranes obtained from normal individuals and patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. T cells of the inducer and the suppressor/cytotoxic subsets were identified by the OKT4 and OKT8 antibodies respectively while HLA-DR (Ia-like) antigens were recognized by a conventional antiserum. In the normal and osteoarthritic synovial membranes, virtually no lymphocytes were identified whereas the mononuclear cell infiltrates of the rheumatoid synovial membranes were composed predominantly of T cells expressing the OKT4 inducer phenotype with few OKT8+ suppressor/cytotoxic cells. The OKT4+ cells were found to be intimately related to B cells and strongly HLA-DR+ cells which morphologically resembled the interdigitating cells of lymph nodes. The micro-anatomical arrangement of these different cell types in the mononuclear infiltrates of the rheumatoid synovial membranes closely resembled that of the paracortical or T cell dependent area of normal lymph nodes except few OKT8+ lymphocytes were present. These findings are explained in terms of rheumatoid arthritis as a disease of altered T lymphocyte/macrophage immunoregulation.