To compare the cytokine profile with the degree and composition of cellular infiltration in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) synovium, synovial membranes from patients with RA (n = 14) and OA (n = 5) were examined, employing immunohistochemistry and competitive reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), for interleukin (IL)-I beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, and IL-10, and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) gene expression. It was found that the strength of cytokine gene expression within the synovial membranes of patients with RA was not significantly correlated with the degree of synovial infiltration of T-cells, B-cells, or macrophages. No IL-2, IL-4, or IL-5 RNA was detected in the synovium of either RA or OA. Quantitative cytokine determination showed a similar pattern in RA and OA, although the two diseases differed in total synovial infiltration and the composition of infiltrating cellular elements. Thus the number of cell types known to produce certain cytokines does not appear to determine the strength of synovial cytokine expression measured by quantitative RT-PCR. Furthermore, the pattern of T-cell specific cytokines found in RA synovium does not accord with the concept of the TH0, TH1, and TH2.