Lewis rats injected in the hind paw with Mycobacterium butyricum develop a severe polyarthritis which shares certain features in common with rheumatoid arthritis in man. Spleen and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from rats with this form of arthritic disease proliferate poorly in vitro in response to concanavalin A (con A), phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), and pokeweed mitogen (PWM). The splenic hyporesponsiveness appears within four days of M. butyricum injection (three to five days prior to the development of detectable arthritis), reaches a peak 16-22 days following injection, and persists for at least 40 days. Buffalo strain rats injected with M. butyricum do not develop arthritis, and their spleen cells respond normally to con A, PHA, and PWM. In response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) the synthesis of interleukin 1 (IL-1) by spleen or peritoneal macrophages from arthritic Lewis rats equalled or exceeded that of macrophages from normal rats. In contrast splenic T cells from arthritic rats produced reduced amounts of interleukin 2 (IL-2; T cell growth factor) in response to stimulation with PHA or con A. Moreover, con-A-activated spleen cells from arthritic rats failed to bind IL-2 and to respond to this growth factor with increased 3H-TdR uptake as did normal spleen cells. In-vitro treatment of 'arthritic' cells with 10(-5) M indomethacin did not restore to normal their reduced mitogen responsiveness, and spleen cells from normal and arthritic rats were equally sensitive to the inhibitory effects of prostaglandin E2 on con-A-induced proliferative responses. These results indicate that peripheral lymphoid function is compromised in rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis and that this functional deficit is mediated by aberrant synthesis of and response to IL-2 by T cells of arthritic animals.
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