The arthritogenic properties of adjuvant oil upon percutaneous administration in DA rats was investigated. Groups of rats were administered single or repeated percutaneous applications of Freund's incomplete adjuvant (FIA) or olive oil on shaved skin with or without prior abrasion of the skin. Control rats were shaved and abrased only. A transient arthritis developed in 8/16 animals after repeated applications of FIA on abrased skin. The incidence of arthritis increased to 7/8 animals when FIA was repeatedly administered via filter paper on abrased skin and covered with a bandage. Histological examination of the arthritic joints showed proliferation of the synovial lining layer, infiltration of mononuclear cells and polymorphonuclear cells in the subsynovial tissue. Some bone and cartilage destruction was also seen. Repeated treatment with olive oil on abrased skin induced joint swelling in 3/15 animals, which did not, however, correspond to any microscopically observable signs of inflammation. Also, a single application of FIA on abrased skin or repeated applications of FIA without abrasion induced arthritis, although with low penetration, whereas control animals had no clinical signs of joint involvement. These findings demonstrate that percutaneous administration of adjuvant oil can cause arthritis in genetically susceptible animals.