Adenoviral vectors were used to deliver genes encoding a soluble interleukin 1 (IL-1)-type I receptor-IgG fusion protein and/or a soluble type I tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) receptor-IgG fusion protein directly to the knees of rabbits with antigen-induced arthritis. When tested individually, knees receiving the soluble IL-1 receptor had significantly reduced cartilage matrix degradation and white blood cell infiltration into the joint space. Delivery of the soluble TNFalpha receptor was less effective, having only a moderate effect on white blood cell infiltration and no effect on cartilage breakdown. When both soluble receptors were used together, there was a greater inhibition of white blood cell infiltration and cartilage breakdown with a considerable reduction of synovitis. Interestingly, anti-arthritic effects were also seen in contralateral control knees receiving only a marker gene, suggesting that sustained local inhibition of disease activity in one joint may confer an anti-arthritic effect on other joints. These results suggest that local intra-articular gene transfer could be used to treat systemic polyarticular arthritides.