Fibronectin and immune complexes in rheumatic diseases.
The relation between fibronectin and immune complexes in rheumatic disease was examined in a series of linked studies. Fibronectin was present in immune complexes formed in vitro in the absence of C1q. Gel filtration chromatography showed complexed fibronectin was present in the serum of a patient with rheumatoid vasculitis, but not in normal serum; the complexed fibronectin coeluted with IgA and C3. Two dimensional immunoelectrophoresis showed a single fibronectin component was present in normal serum, but a number of components were present in serum from a rheumatoid patient. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by immunoblotting for fibronectin showed that polyethylene glycol precipitates of synovial fluid contained immunoreactive components of a variety of sizes, indicating the presence of fragments of the molecule. An analysis of fibronectin in polyethylene glycol precipitates of paired serum and synovial fluid samples from 17 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 16 with osteoarthritis showed more fibronectin was present in rheumatoid samples, especially in synovial fluid. More fibronectin was also present in synovial fluid than in serum polyethylene glycol precipitates; there was no direct relationship with C1q levels. All these results suggest that fibronectin is an integral component of immune complexes. This has potential pathogenic significance because it shows that a product of connective tissue cells may influence the functions of the immune system.