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To evaluate the role of the prostaglandin E receptor (EP) subtypes in the development of inflammatory synovitis, we examined EP subtype mRNA distribution in the synovial tissue of rats with adjuvant arthritis and the effect of selective EP agonists on cytokine production by cultured rat synovial cells. We used reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization to measure the level of EP subtype (EP1, EP2, EP3, and EP4) mRNA expression in synovial tissues and cultured synovial cells from the arthritic joints of rats. RT-PCR and ELISA were used to analyse the effects of two selective EP agonists on IL-6 production by cultured rat synovial cells. EP2 and EP4 mRNA expression in inflamed synovial tissues was up-regulated. EP2 and EP4 mRNA were co-expressed in synovial macrophages and fibroblasts in inflamed tissues. EP4 and EP2 agonists both inhibited IL-1-induced IL-6 production. Our results suggest that prostaglandin E 2 regulates the functions of synovial macrophages and fibroblasts through EP2 and EP4, which are induced by inflammatory stimuli in rats with adjuvant arthritis.