Lysozyme and lactoferrin levels were measured in 71 synovial fluids (SF) of patients with traumatic effusions, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, pseudogout, septic arthritis, and gout, as well as in 91 synovial fluids graded according to their neutrophil count. Elevated lysozyme levels were found in all the inflammatory arthritides and also in osteoarthritis. Lactoferrin levels were not increased in osteoarthritis but displayed a close correlation to the extent of the inflammatory response as judged by SF neutrophilia. The ratio of lysozyme to lactoferrin decreased progressively with increasing SF neutrophilia. In vitro experiments showed that lactoferrin is released from neutrophils isochronously with lysozyme and beta-glucuronidase. Lactoferrin was not found in hyaline cartilage, a tissue known to contain lysozyme. These results are consistent with belief that SF lysozyme has a major derivation from both cartilage and neutrophils, and that lactoferrin arises only from neutrophils. These findings indicate that the simultaneous measurement of lysozyme and lactoferrin provides a potentially useful index of both joint inflammation and cartilage degradation.