In an experimental arthritis induced by injection of bovine serum albumin or egg albumin into the joints of previously immunized animals, it has been demonstrated that the major portion of the radioactively labeled antigens injected was localized to avascular collagenous tissues in the joint, i.e., articular cartilage, menisci, and intra-articular ligaments. The antigens were partially eluted from the tissues with 5 M guanidine solution, but not with acid buffers or by 3 M magnesium chloride. The radioactive material eluted with guanidine was at least 80% precipitable by specific antisera.
The radioactively labeled-inducing antigen was identified on the surface of articular collagenous tissues from arthritic joints by radioautography and immunofluorescence. Rabbit immunoglobulin and C3 were demonstrated in the same sites by immunofluorescence. The presence of specific antibody in collagenous tissues was demonstrated by the selective in vitro binding of 125I-labeled-inducing antigen to menisci from arthritic joints of immunized animals.
The evidence obtained indicates that in this model of chronic arthritis, the inducing antigen persists for long periods of time in the form of immune complexes in the surface layers of the intra-articular collagenous tissue. The antigen retained in this form may be responsible for the chronicity of the synovitis by serving as a direct stimulus for the maintenance of prolonged antibody synthesis in the synovium and by providing a source of complement-fixing antigen-antibody complexes for the mediation of joint inflammation.