The kinetics of cytokine production in arthritic limbs of mice with CIA was determined by using modified immunohistochemical techniques. Tissue cryostat sections of undecalcified whole paws were analysed for the presence of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), IL-6, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5 interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), transforming growth factor-beta 2 (TGF-beta2) and TGF-beta3. Locally produced TNF-alpha, IL-6 and TGF-beta2 were observed within the lining layer, sublining and pannus at all stages of disease. The staining of TNF-alpha was particularly intense at the cartilage-pannus junction. In contrast to the monokines, IFN-gamma and TGF-beta3 were only expressed in scattered cells within the deeper layers of the synovia. Interestingly, IFN-gamma was not present in the late phase of CIA, despite the continued presence of TNF-alpha and IL-6 in the pannus. Production of IL-2, IL-4 or IL-5 was not detected in any joint. The observed pattern of a relative paucity of T cell-derived cytokines and an abundance of monokines during the late phase of T cell-dependent CIA indicates that the synovial cytokine pattern previously described in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is fully compatible with a pathogenic role of T cells. The temporal as well as spatial dissociation between expression of T cell-derived cytokines and monokines indicates that T cell-independent mechanisms may also be of importance in the triggering of monokine production during arthritis.