Cell-free synovial fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis stimulated the NADPH oxidase activity in human neutrophils, which reached a peak 15-20 min after addition. Insoluble immunoglobulin aggregates isolated from these fluids activated a similar pattern of oxidase activity. However, when synovial fluid was added to neutrophil suspensions which had been previously exposed to granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, the stimulated oxidase activity was biphasic, in that an additional transient activity was observed which reached a peak within 5 min of addition. The additional neutrophil-stimulating activity could not be sedimented by centrifugation at 330,000 g-min, and only activated oxidase activity in neutrophils which had previously been primed. The neutrophil-stimulating activity in this soluble fraction was removed by Protein A affinity chromatography, and activity was recovered in eluates from this column. Thus activity in this soluble fraction from synovial fluid is attributed to the presence of soluble immunoglobulin aggregates. Whereas oxidase activity stimulated by the isoluble immunoglobulin aggregates was inhibited by staurosporine (and hence largely dependent on the activity of protein kinase C), the activity stimulated by the soluble immunoglobulin aggregates was staurosporine-insensitive. The soluble immunoglobulin aggregates were present at significantly higher levels in synovial fluids from patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared with those from other joint arthropathies. Thus rheumatoid synovial fluids possess heterogeneous immunoglobulin aggregates which activate neutrophils via distinct molecular pathways. As neutrophils within rheumatoid joints are primed, the soluble immunoglobulin aggregates are likely to be of importance in disease pathology.

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