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Scand J Immunol. 1994 Dec;40(6):648-52.

Role of the bowel flora for development of immunity to hsp 65 and arthritis in three experimental models.

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Department of Pharmacology, Pharmacia Pharmaceuticals, Uppsala, Sweden.


An infectious aetiology in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has for long been suggested, although no conclusive evidence for this is at present available. Lately a large interest has been devoted to the involvement of heat shock proteins (hsps) in autoimmune disorders due to their conserved structure and immunogenic properties. Immunity to hsps has been observed both in human autoimmune conditions and in experimental models of autoimmune disease. We have studied the role of the bacterial flora and hsp immunity in the arthritic response in three experimental models of arthritis; type II collagen arthritis (CIA), adjuvant arthritis (AA) and oil induced arthritis (OIA); by using germ free and conventional DA rats. A high incidence of severe arthritis developed in all the models evaluated irrespectively of whether the animals were in the conventional or germ free state. This confirms earlier results which show a minor effect of the bacterial flora in CIA and AA in high responder strains. These results also show that a severe OIA can develop in germ free animals. Despite the severe arthritic response induced, no serum antibody levels to hsp 65 could be detected in the germ free animals, which was in contrast to the conventional animals where a positive anti-hsp 65 serum response was seen in 35-80% of the animals with CIA, AA or OIA. These results show that development of a humoral response to hsp 65 in these models of arthritis is dependent on the presence of a bacterial flora. Further, the lack of humoral immunity in germ free animals despite a severe arthritic response indicates that humoral immunity to hsp 65 is not involved in development of disease in these three models of experimental arthritis.

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