Synovial fluid samples (139) from 121 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, pseudogout, chronic pyrophosphate arthritis, gout, and reactive arthritis were analysed for cartilage proteoglycan components. Keratan sulphate (KS) epitope was determined by a competitive radioimmunoassay, and total sulphated glycosaminoglycans (S-GAG) were determined after papain digestion by a specific dye binding assay. Increased concentration of both KS epitope and S-GAG were found in synovial fluid from joints with acute inflammatory arthropathy (gout, pseudogout, and reactive arthritis). Analysis of consecutive samples from the same joint at different stages showed that the concentration of KS epitope or total S-GAG varied with acute inflammatory activity. In samples from patients with chronic conditions during active and inactive inflammatory phases concentrations were much lower and not distinguishable among these disease groups. The detection of raised concentration of proteoglycan components may reflect the rapid depletion or greatly increased turnover of proteoglycan in the articular cartilage during acute inflammation in the joint. This did not appear to be sustained in most patients with chronic joint diseases.
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