Serum zinc and copper levels and serum interleukin 1 beta (IL1 beta) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) levels were evaluated in 57 female patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to investigate a possible role of IL1 beta and TNF alpha on zinc and copper homeostasis in RA. Serum zinc levels were significantly lower and serum copper levels significantly higher in RA patients when compared with osteoarthritis or asymmetrical psoriatic oligoarthritis patients and with normal controls. No differences were observed in serum IgM rheumatoid factor positive and serum IgM rheumatoid factor negative patients as regards serum zinc and copper concentration. In RA patients the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and acute-phase proteins correlated negatively with serum zinc and positively with serum copper. IL1 beta and TNF alpha were found to correlate negatively with zinc and positively with copper in RA patients. Lower levels of zinc may be due to an accumulation of zinc-containing proteins in the liver and in the inflamed joints in RA. Elevated serum copper levels seem to be linked to the increased synthesis of ceruloplasmin by the liver.