Since it has been implied that cellular oncogenes might have a role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we have examined the expression of c-myc, c-myb, c-fos, c-jun and c-Ha-ras oncogenes in the cells from synovial fluid (SF) and peripheral blood (PB) of patients with reactive arthritis (ReA) and early RA. Oncogene expression was studied using RNA hybridizations with 32P-labelled probes. From the SF, mononuclear and granulocyte cell fractions were used separately. Significant differences between ReA and RA were observed only for c-myb in PB mononuclear cells and c-jun in SF granulocytes. Regarding the expression of c-myc, c-fos and c-Ha-ras oncogenes, no difference between ReA and RA was observed. Comparison to normal controls was made using PB mononuclear cells; only the expression of c-fos tended to be slightly increased in RA, without statistical significance, however. We conclude that oncogene activation in the synovial inflammation is not a phenomenon specific for RA.