No Cu(II) ion is measurable in human serum or synovial fluid by the phenanthroline assay. On storage of human serum or synovial fluid at 4 degrees C, phenanthroline-detectable copper appears, lipid peroxidation occurs, ferroxidase I activity declines and ferroxidase II activity rises, yet there is no fall in immunologically detectable caeruloplasmin. Storage of body fluids at −20 degrees C or −70 degrees C slows, but does not prevent, these deteriorative changes. It is suggested that the presence of low-molecular-mass Cu(II) ion complexes, ferroxidase II activity, ‘cytotoxic factors’ and ‘immunosuppressive factors’ in body fluids may be, in part or in whole, an artifact of the storage and handling of the fluids. A report [Blake, Blann, Bacon, Farr, Gutteridge & Halliwell (1983) Clin. Sci. 64, 551-553] that the caeruloplasmin present in rheumatoid synovial fluid is deficient in ferroxidase activity is shown to be such an artifact. It is strongly recommended that all such experiments be performed upon freshly taken fluid samples.

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