1. We have investigated the mechanism of bradykinin (BK)-induced plasma extravasation into the knee joint of the anaesthetized rat. Accumulation of [125I]-human serum albumin within the synovial cavity was used as a marker of increased vascular permeability. 2. Perfusion with BK (1 microM) produced significant plasma extravasation into the knee which was inhibited by co-perfusion of the selective bradykinin B2 receptor antagonist D-Arg-[Hyp3,Thi5,D-Tic7,Oic8]-bradykinin (Hoe 140, 200 nM). 3. The bradykinin B1 receptor agonist, [des-Arg9]-BK (up to 100 mM), did not induce plasma extravasation into the knee joint, over this time period. 4. Chemical sympathectomy by chronically administered 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) did not inhibit bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation. Acute intra-articular perfusion with 6-OHDA (to stimulate transmitter release from sympathetic nerve terminals) at concentrations up to 50 mM did not induce significant plasma extravasation. Intra-articular perfusion of 100 mM 6-OHDA induced significant plasma extravasation but produced severe systemic toxicity. 5. The selective neurokinin1 (NK1) receptor antagonist, RP67580 (230 nmol kg-1), or receptor antagonists for the mast cell products histamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine did not significantly inhibit BK-induced plasma extravasation. 6. Co-perfusion of the NO synthase inhibitor, NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) (1 mM) did not significantly inhibit the response to BK. 133Xe clearance from L-NAME (1 mM)-injected joints was significantly (P < 0.05) reduced compared to D-NAME injected joints, suggesting a reduction in blood flow as a result of decreased basal NO production. Systemic administration of L-NAME at doses sufficient to produce significant and sustained elevation of blood pressure (5 or 30 mg kg-1, i.v. 15 min prior to BK perfusion) also failed to significantly inhibit the BK-induced response.7 We conclude that, in normal joints, BK induces plasma extravasation by acting on bradykinin B2 receptors and that this response is not dependent on secondary release of mediators from sympathetic nerve terminals, sensory nerves, mast cells or on generation of NO.