Eosinophils are seldom noted in inflammatory synovial fluids but are reported to infiltrate the synovial tissue in inflammatory arthritides. To elucidate a possible role for eosinophils in inflammatory joint reactions the concentrations of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP)--a specific granule protein from eosinophils--were measured by radioimmunoassay in 90 synovial fluids from patients with various inflammatory arthritides (rheumatoid arthritis, reactive and crystal arthritides, Reiter's disease and psoriatic arthropathy). In the same specimens lactoferrin was measured as an indicator of neutrophil-involved inflammation. In comparison with the normal circulating levels of ECP and lactoferrin the measured synovial fluid concentrations of both proteins were considerably raised in all patient groups with inflammatory joint diseases in contrast to patients with non-inflammatory arthritides. There was a striking positive correlation between the ECP and lactoferrin synovial fluid concentrations. These data indicate that eosinophil activation is prominent in inflammatory joint reactions and is linked to the activation of neutrophils. The regulation of degranulation or secretion by eosinophils is unknown. Our in-vitro studies showed that peripheral blood isolated neutrophils as well as eosinophils degranulated when exposed to IgG complexes. However, eosinophil degranulation was modest compared with neutrophil degranulation. These data suggest that neutrophil phagocytosis of, for example, immune complexes may be one major mechanism in neutrophil degranulation but that other factors determine the appearance of eosinophil products in inflammatory synovial effusions. The possible modulatory or harmful role of eosinophils in inflammatory joint disease can at present only be speculated on.
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