Pig synovial fibroblasts were shown to produce a protein that caused live cartilage to resorb its proteoglycan matrix in vitro. Fibroblasts were obtained either from synovial tissue digest or by allowing them to grow out of explants. The population derived from the digests was homogeneous and free of macrophage-like cells after two passages, but was still producing the cartilage-resorbing protein after seven passages. The active protein was found to have Mr 20,000 on gell filtration, and pI 4.8 on isoelectric focussing in polyacrylamide gel. It was indistinguishable from a protein with the same activity from pig mononuclear leucocytes, which has been called catabolin. Production of the protein was increased if the synovial fibroblasts were cultured with the tumour promoter phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. Fibroblasts from other sources (joint capsule and peritoneum) also apparently made the protein. The possibility that catabolin is the same as interleukin-1 is discussed: if they are, then the results suggest that fibroblasts can make an interleukin-1-life protein.

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