We assessed the time-course of adjuvant arthritis (AA) in Lewis rats, using biotelemetry to monitor the rat's spontaneous locomotor activity and body temperature, and studied the evolution of the arthritic index, circulating concentrations of inflammation-promoting cytokines, cartilage proteoglycan synthesis, and the effect of indomethacin as a cyclooxygenase inhibitor to evaluate prostaglandin (PG) contribution in AA. The injection of complete Freund's adjuvant on day 0 (D0) induced a marked, transient loss of locomotor activity (D1-D4; initial phase) and then a second phase of hypomobility peaking on D15 and thereafter irreversible (D16-D20; arthritic phase). Fever peaked first on D1 and again between D13 and D17. The primary hyperthermia was associated with increases in plasma interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha concentrations and seemed to be partly PG dependent. Proteoglycan synthesis inhibition in the patellar cartilage increased gradually, spreading from the injected paw to the contralateral paw. It was corrected on D20 by preventive and curative indomethacin treatments. Indomethacin also greatly relieved hypomobility during the systemic phase of AA (D10-D15). The combination of information about cartilage metabolism, body temperature, locomotor activity, and cytokine in this study permits analysis of analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and chondroprotective properties of drugs in the various phases of AA. Thus, using a new methodology, we have discriminated the different phases of the disease and confirmed the symptomatic and systemic inhibitory effect of indomethacin on fever, activity, and cartilage metabolism.