Collagenase, stromelysin and phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity as well as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) concentration were determined in the knee joint synovial fluid (SF) of 26 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Collagenase and stromelysin were detected in 80.7 and 69.2% of OA SF, respectively. When present, the mean activity of both enzymes was approximately two times lower in OA than in RA SF. PLA2 activity was present in all SF with no significant difference between OA and RA SF. IL-1 beta, TNF alpha and IL-6 were found in 0, 96.1 and 84.6% of OA SF, respectively. Mean TNF alpha and IL-6 concentration was also lower in OA than in RA SF. Metalloprotease activity correlated weakly with IL-6 level and enzymatic activities were unrelated with TNF alpha in OA SF.