Chemokines are small proteins that selectively activate and recruit leukocytes to sites of inflammation. Several of them, including the CC chemokines RANTES, MIP-1 alpha, MIP-1 beta, MCP-1, and the CXC chemokines IL-8, GRO-alpha, ENA-78 have been identified in rheumatoid synovium, implicating a potential role for these molecules in rheumatoid arthritis. We have investigated the expression patterns of CC chemokine receptors in the joints of mice with collagen-induced arthritis, a model for human rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, we have investigated the incidence and severity of arthritis in mice receiving administration of MetRANTES, a modified chemokine which is a nanomolar antagonist of certain CC chemokine receptors. The mRNA expression pattern of the chemokines and their receptors in the joints of arthritic mice was investigated using reverse transcriptase-PCR and in situ hybridization. An upregulation of the CC chemokine receptors mCCR1, mCCR2; mCCR3 and mCCR5 was found in the joints from arthritic mice, compared to control animals. In addition, injections of MetRANTES reduced the incidence of disease in a dose dependent manner. Furthermore, in MetRANTES-treated mice that did develop arthritis a significantly lower severity of disease was observed compared with control animals. Our data clearly demonstrate a role for CC chemokines and their receptors in inflammatory joint destruction and support the use of chemokine receptor antagonists as potential tools to control inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.