We have recently described a new animal model of arthritis induced by intradermal injection of a distinct type of collagen found in cartilage (type II collagen). Since immunologic sensitivity to collagen could play a role in the pathogenesis of this type II collagen-induced arthritis in rats, the ability of purified types of native collagens to induce cellular and humoral responses was quantified by antigeninduced tritiated thymidine incorporation into lymphocytes by collagen and passive hemagglutination, respectively. Rats injected intradermally with native heterologous or homologous type II collagens in adjuvant developed type-specific cellular as well as humoral reactivity. Types I and III collagens were less immunogenic than was type II. The latter collagen induced brisk cellular and humoral responses that were equivalent whether complete Freund's adjuvant or incomplete Freund's adjuvant were employed. Both responses could be induced by native type II collagens modified by limited pepsin digestion, indicating that they are not attributable to determinants in the telopeptide regions of the molecule. Thus, these studies demonstrate the unique immunogenic as well as arthritogenic properties of the type II collagen molecule and indicate that both result from a helical conformation of its structurally distinct α-chains. Further, they suggest that type II collagen may, by humoral or cellular mechanisms, provoke or perpetuate inflammation in other arthritic diseases.
David E. Trentham, Alexander S. Townes, Andrew H. Kang, John R. David