We have investigated whether the skin-homing T lymphocytes identified by the cutaneous lymphocyte antigen (CLA) are increased in the synovial membrane of patients with psoriatic arthritis. Twenty-six synovial samples (13 psoriatic arthritis, seven rheumatoid arthritis, six osteoarthritis) were obtained from involved knees. Lesional skin biopsies were taken from nine of the patients with psoriatic arthritis and six patients with psoriasis alone. All samples were single- and dual-stained for CLA and CD3 (to identify T lymphocytes) using HECA-452 (anti-CLA) and anti-CD3 monoclonal antibodies. E-selectin expression was also determined. The percentage of dual-stained lymphocytes was significantly greater in psoriatic skin than in synovium (P <0.001) and similar between psoriatic and rheumatoid synovium. There was no significant difference in the percentages of CLA-positive cells in psoriatic skin in patients with psoriatic arthritis compared with psoriasis alone. The intensity of endothelial E-selectin expression was significantly greater in skin psoriasis than in synovium (P <2 x 10(-5)), and rheumatoid synovium had significantly greater expression than psoriatic synovium (P <0.05). However, there was no significant correlation between E-selectin expression and the percentages of CLA-positive lymphocytes. This study provides further evidence that the CLA antigen is enriched on skin-homing lymphocytes. Conversely, the link between skin and joint inflammation in psoriatic arthritis does not seem to be explained by increased trafficking of CLA T cells to psoriatic synovium.