In this study we have analyzed the TCR V alpha and V beta regions at the DNA level in the CD4+CD45RO+ memory T cell population of synovial tissue infiltrating T lymphocytes of three rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and one patient with chronic arthritis. Cell lines of CD4+CD45RO+, CD4+CD45RO-, CD8+CD45RO+ and CD8+CD45RO- T lymphocyte populations were generated following FACS cell sorting of freshly isolated synovial tissue mononuclear cell infiltrates (STMC) and of freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of these patients. The phenotypic and molecular analyses have revealed the following. (i) The TCR repertoires of tissue infiltrating T lymphocytes in the various subsets were extensive on the basis of TCR V gene family usage. (ii) Furthermore, each patient displayed individual specific TCR V gene expression patterns in the various STMC and PBMC derived T cell subsets. However, the majority of these arthritis patients manifested increased expression of multiple TCR V gene families in the synovial tissue derived CD4+CD45RO+ T cell population when compared with the peripheral blood derived CD4+CD45RO+ subset. Of these gene families, we found enhanced expression of the TCR V alpha 7 and V beta 11 gene segments in synovial tissue to be shared by all four patients analyzed. (iii) Nucleotide sequence analysis of the CDR3 regions of a number of TCR V regions in the CD4+CD45RO+ T cell subsets has revealed that the CDR3 regions comprised within synovial tissue derived TCR V regions differed from those found in peripheral blood derived TCR V regions. These differences in CDR3 diversity might be the consequence of a specific interaction with particular MHC-peptide complexes expressed at the site of inflammation. (iv) The CDR3 region analysis also showed individual specific amino acid motifs within the N-D-N regions of all analyzed TCR V beta genes derived from PBMC as well as STMC.