The collagenolytic activity associated with insoluble collagen fibers separated from homogenates of inflamed paws from rats with adjuvant arthritis was quantitated using EDTA-sensitive solubilization of hydroxyproline as a measure of activity. Approximately 60% of the solubilized hydroxyproline was associated with dialyzable products. The level of collagenolytic activity in the paws increased with time after the induction of adjuvant arthritis and paralleled to a large extent the development of inflammation in both the adjuvant injected (right) hind paw and in the non-injected, contralateral paw. By day 26, the level of free collagenolytic activity in the injected paw had increased to a level 30 times normal while that in the contralateral paw had increased to a level 10 times normal. Treatment of the residues from the injected paws with trypsin resulted in the activation of a latent collagenolytic activity which, on day 26, accounted for approximately 50% of the total activity. The elevated level of collagen prolyl hydroxylase in the inflamed paw suggested that the rate of collagen synthesis was also increased. The activity of beta-glucuronidase increased in the inflamed paw with time after the induction of adjuvant arthritis while that of cathepsin G was elevated as compared to normal in paws removed, 5 but not 22 days after the induction of adjuvant arthritis. The inflamed paw of the adjuvant rat may represent a useful system in which to study the role of collagenolytic enzymes in the destruction of connective tissue by inflammatory lesions.