Predominantly T cell infiltrate in rheumatoid synovial membranes
Lymphocytes infiltrating synovial membranes were characterized in eight patients with proliferative rheumatoid synovitis. Surface immunoglobulins were studied with use of immunofluorescence, and the C3 receptor was detected by adherence of red cells coated with antibody and complement - both are B-cell markers. Spontaneous rosette formation with sheep erythrocytes was used as a T-cell marker. To obtain viable lymphocytes in suspension, the villous synovium of five of these patients was digested with collagenase and deoxyribonuclease. Populations enriched in lymphocytes could be obtained by velocity sedimentation. Whereas only 9 to 35 per cent of lymphocytes bore surface immunoglobulins, the majority (70 to 85 per cent) formed sheep-erythrocyte rosettes. Cells bearing the C3 receptor constituted a distinct minority of synovial lymphocytes in frozen-tissue sections, and were found in follicle-like accumulations. These data indicate that the predominant infiltrating lymphocyte in proliferative rheumatoid synovitis is a T cell.