The objective of this paper is to define the expression of adhesion molecules in synovial tissue (ST) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with respect to disease duration. Antibodies against adhesion molecules were used for immunohistochemistry to examine ST sections from 11 patients with early RA ( < 1 year), 14 patients with long-standing RA ( > 5 years), and 15 patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Increased cellular infiltration and increased expression of E-selectin, ICAM-1, VCAM-1, PECAM-1, VLA-4, and Mac-1 were found in ST from patients with RA compared to ST from patients with OA. The immunohistological findings were similar for the different stages of RA. The upregulation of adhesion molecules in ST of patients with RA of < 1 year's duration suggests the activation of chronic inflammatory processes in these patients. Therefore, the mechanisms by which therapies directed toward these adhesion molecules exert their effects are likely to be similar for patients with so-called early RA and patients with long-standing RA.