The oxidative metabolism of neutrophils isolated from the bloodstream and synovial fluid of 16 patients with rheumatoid arthritis was compared by measuring the ability of neutrophils to generate luminol dependent chemiluminescence and to secrete O2-. Measurements of receptor mediated--that is, N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine stimulated--activation or receptor and second message independent--that is phorbol myristate acetate stimulated--activation showed that synovial fluid neutrophils had biochemical characteristics to suggest that they had been either up-regulated (primed) or down-regulated (activated) in vivo. These conclusions were confirmed by comparison of these responses with the changes in oxidative metabolism observed during in vitro priming and activation of control neutrophils: synovial fluid neutrophils possessed lower levels of myeloperoxidase than paired bloodstream cells, and unlike bloodstream cells could not be primed in vitro. These data thus suggest that synovial fluid neutrophils have been exposed to both priming and activating agents within rheumatoid joints.
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