Human sympathetic ophthalmia. An analysis of the inflammatory infiltrate by hybridoma-monoclonal antibodies, immunochemistry, and correlative electron microscopy
A case of human sympathetic ophthalmia, enucleated after surgical trauma, was studied by means of hybridoma-derived monoclonal antibodies, histochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy. The choroidal infiltrate was composed predominantly of T-lymphocytes of the suppressor/cytotoxic subset (OKT8+); only 5% of the cells were immunoglobulin-producing B-lymphocytes (kappa or lambda light chain positive), thereby explaining the well-known paucity of plasma cells in the infiltrate. The epithelioid cells and phagocytic histiocytes in the choroid were la+ and OKM1+, antigenic determinants specific for bone marrow-derived monocytes, and their cytoplasms exhibited histochemical reactivity for alpha-1-antichymotrypsin and lysozyme. Ultrastructurally, the choroidal epithelioid cells contained single melanin granules in the cytoplasm, but these were membrane-bound and frequently associated with lysosomal material, features militating against these cells being transformed choroidal melanocytes. By means of immunologic and ultrastructural analysis, the Dalen-Fuchs nodules were found to be composed of a mixture of histiocytes (la+ and OKM1+) and depigmented retinal pigment epithelial cells (la- and OKM1-); the latter cells focally formed desmosomes and displayed inclusions of lipofuscin. Scattered within the Dalen-Fuchs nodules were small numbers of T-lymphocytes of the suppressor/cytotoxic subset. We have concluded that the uveitis and retinal pigment epithelial changes are mediated by a T-cell, delayed hypersensitivity pathogenetic mechanism (cell-mediated immunity), possibly directed at surface membrane antigens that may be shared by photoreceptors, retinal pigment epithelial cells, and choroidal melanocytes.