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Am J Pathol. 1982 Jul;108(1):9-16.

Antigen handling in antigen-induced arthritis in mice: an autoradiographic and immunofluorescence study using whole joint sections.


Antigen localization after intraarticular antigen injection was studied in immune and nonimmune mice using autoradiographic and immunofluorescence techniques on whole joint sections. After intraarticular injection of radiolabeled methylated bovine serum albumin (125I-mBSA) in immune mice, labeling in the synovium and synovial exudate diminished rapidly, apart from some deposits in fibrinlike material present in the joint cavity. Long-term antigen retention was found in avascular and hypovascular structures lining the joint cavity, albeit not along the whole surface; eg, labeling remained present at the edges of the femoral condyle hyaline cartilage but not at the central weight-bearing region; long-term retention at ligaments was only found at the insertion sites. Immunofluorescence data in immune animals showed antigen retention together with the presence of immunoglobulins and complement, indicating that antigen is retained at least in part in the form of immune complexes. Nonimmune mice showed even higher long-term antigen retention than immune animals, probably related to physico-chemical properties of the antigen enabling nonimmune binding to articular structures, but also indicating that the presence of joint inflammation in the immune animals enhances antigen clearance. Histologic examination of the ligaments and patellar cartilage of immune mice did reveal that long-term antigen retention was not anatomically related to nearby inflammation or to local tissue damage. The importance of long-term antigen retention for the chronicity of arthritis may lie in the leakage of small amounts of this antigen to joint compartments where it does behave as an inflammatory stimulus; it may further be that it renders the joint a specifically hypersensitive area.

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