Many inflammatory conditions show topographically precise symmetrical responses. In this study we assessed vascular and cellular responses of apparently normal knees following induction of monoarthritis on the opposite side. A strictly localised monoarthritis was induced in the right knee of experimental animals using intra-articular latex spheres. In both knee joints bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation was significantly enhanced increasing from 0.52 +/- 0.07 micrograms/ml Evans blue to 0.99 +/- 0.07 micrograms/ml and 0.88 +/- 0.1 micrograms/ml in the injected and uninjected, contralateral, knees respectively (P < 0.05). A bilateral increase in cellularity was also apparent with cell counts in the uninjected, and apparently normal, knee increasing from 512 +/- 42 cells/mm2 to a maximum of 812 +/- 125 cells/mm2 on day 10 (P < 0.05). Immunohistological analysis demonstrated that the infiltrating cells in both the ipsilateral and contralateral joints were predominantly macrophages. Cell counts were not increased in the other peripheral joints. Levels of the sensory neuropeptide substance P were significantly elevated in both the ipsilateral and contralateral dorsal root ganglia and prior inhibition of small unmyelinated nerve activity inhibited the cellular infiltrate on the contralateral side, suggesting that the effect was mediated, at least partially, by a specific neurogenic pathway. The data suggests the presence of a neurogenic mechanism able to induce a topographically precise response. This may serve to upregulate the cellular defences of at-risk tissues following a potentially damaging stimulus at another site.