Gene therapy is a promising new approach in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Gene delivery to diseased joints offers the prospect of achieving high, local concentrations of a therapeutic gene product in a sustained manner, while minimizing exposure of nontarget organs. We report that a single administration of a modified adenovirus encoding the Epstein-Barr-derived homologue of IL-10 can suppress the development of disease for extended periods of time when injected locally within the periarticular tissue surrounding the ankle joints of mice with collagen type II-induced arthritis. Furthermore, we show that injection of an adenoviral vector carrying the IL-10 gene into a single paw can suppress development of arthritis in other, noninjected paws of the same individual. The systemic protection resulting from local gene therapy occurred in the absence of detectable levels of viral IL-10 in the serum. Circulating Ab levels to heterologous collagen were unaffected; however, treatment with viral IL-10 significantly suppressed the development of Abs to autologous mouse type II collagen. Thus, the treatment of a single joint by local delivery of the vIL-10 gene may protect multiple joints of the same individual while avoiding deleterious side effects often associated with systemic therapy.