Adjuvant arthritis (AA) in rats is susceptible to cell-mediated passive transfer. Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in rats is susceptible to passive transfer with antibody to type II collagen. We report here the development of strikingly severe arthritis in Lewis rats as the result of synergy between passively transferred antibody to type II collagen from rats with CIA and concanavalin A (Con A)-stimulated lymph node or spleen cells from syngeneic rats with AA. Similar synergy was seen in rats with AA given anticollagen antibody, in rats with CIA given Con A-stimulated adjuvant spleen cells, and in rats actively immunized with CII and complete Freund's adjuvant. The synergistic process caused a very severe polyarthritis, characterized by marked swelling and erythema in all the joints of the distal extremities, with histologic and radiographic evidence of early, extensive erosion of articular cartilage. Synergy was apparent if the lymphoid cells from AA rats were given up to 1 mo after a single injection of anticollagen antibody. No synergy was seen when normal rat immunoglobulin or anti-ovalbumin antibody was substituted for anticollagen antibody, when Con A-stimulated lymphoid cells from normal rats or donors with CIA were used, or when Con A-stimulated AA lymphoid cells were irradiated before transfer. Synergy between separate immune effector mechanisms may represent a general phenomenon in the pathogenesis of inflammatory joint disease.