A subpopulation of mononuclear cells (PBMNC) that expresses Fc receptors with specificity for the C gamma 2 region of IgG may be detected by rosette formation with calf erythrocytes coated with the Facb fragment of rabbit IgG. These Facb-R+ cells are found in increased numbers in the peripheral blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Studies have been carried out to identify the functional properties of these cells in healthy and rheumatoid subjects. Facb-R+ cells were shown to lack both natural killer and antibody-dependent cytotoxic activity. Depletion of Facb-R+ cells from both healthy and rheumatoid PBMNC resulted in a marked suppression of pokeweed mitogen (PWM) stimulated IgG synthesis but had no effect on T cell proliferation induced by phytohaemagglutinin, concanavalin A, or PWM. The addition of Facb fragments to PBMNC cultures also caused inhibition of PWM-driven IgG production. In this assay rheumatoid PBMNC were significantly less sensitive to Facb-mediated suppression than healthy control cells. Our results suggest that Facb-R+ cells are involved in the antibody-mediated feedback regulation of immunoglobulin synthesis and that this mechanism is impaired in patients with RA.
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