A detailed ultrastructural study was made of the synovial iron deposits in cases of haemophilic synovitis (HS), pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), seronegative inflammatory arthritis (SNA), and in controls, to investigate the relationship between iron deposits and tissue damage. Iron was seen by electron microscopy in about 75% of synovial lining cells in HS and PVNS but only in about 25% of synovial cells from cases of RA and SNA. In cases of OA and in controls iron deposits were scarce. The iron was usually deposited within pleomorphic siderosomes and in HS was most common in type A synovial cells. In contrast, deposits in all other cases were more common in type B cells, which were frequently the predominant cell type, and siderosomes were smaller, more homogeneous, and were more common in deeper synovial tissue. Considerable tissue damage was noted in the vicinity of iron rich siderosomes in synovial A cells from cases of HS, but such deposits in B cells in the synovium from the other cases had relatively little effect. We discuss the possibility that such differences directly reflect the differing functions of type A and B synovial cells, and particularly their relative ability to produce metabolically active oxygen metabolites with tissue destructive potential in the presence of iron.
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