The complement activating aggregates in synovial fluids of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been isolated using monoclonal IgM anti-C3d antibodies attached to solid phases, and the content of the material bound has been analysed. High levels of aggregated IgG bearing C3d were found in RA synovial fluids, and IgG was the major immunoglobulin bound from such synovial fluids by anti-C3d Sepharose. A strong correlation was shown between levels of aggregated IgG bearing C3d and complement activation, as judged by C3d levels. Significant (but less strong) relationships were also observed between C3d levels and both complement consuming and C1q binding activity. C3d levels and levels of aggregated IgG bearing C3d were both significantly associated with the numbers of polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs) found in RA synovial fluids. From these results it is concluded that the aggregated immunoglobulins bearing C3d (particularly IgG) isolated from RA synovial fluids are responsible for activating complement and attracting PMNs into the joint space. Radioimmunoassay showed no correlation, however, between levels of aggregated IgG (or IgM) bearing C3d and rheumatoid factor (RF) activity bound by anti-C3d. In addition, the material bound by anti-C3d Sepharose from most synovial fluid polyethylene glycol precipitates did not contain either IgM or IgG RF. Thus both techniques show that the majority of complexes bearing C3d do not contain RF. As the complement fixing aggregates apparently contain only immunoglobulin and complement components the results raise the problem of how the aggregates are formed. It is suggested that RA IgG may remain aggregated after either antigen or antibody (RF) has dissociated from the complex.
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