To investigate the role of immunologic hypersensitivity to collagen in the causation of type II collagen-induced arthritis in rats, passive transfer experiments were performed. Wistar/Lewis rats used in these experiments were demonstrated to be histocompatible by prolonged skin graft survival and mixed lymphocyte cultures. Popliteal lymph node weight assays excluded a potential for graft-vs.-host reactivity in this strain. 9 of 32 naive rats developed arthritis after intravenous receipt of pooled spleen and lymph node cells from donors that had been injected intradermally with type II collagen emulsified in incomplete Freund's adjuvant. This passively transferred synovitis was evident clinically as well as histologically. In control cell transfer experiments involving a total of 97 recipients, transfer of arthritis was shown to require viable cells sensitized to type II collagen. These controls included 17 rats receiving cells from unimmunized donors, 20 recipients of cells from donors injected with incomplete Freund's adjuvant alone, and 24 recipients of cells from rats injected with type I collagen in adjuvant. Deliberate addition of solubilized type II collagen to unsensitized cells at the time of transfer or injection of heat-killed sensitized cells also did not cause arthritis in a total of 36 recipients. These latter two control groups indicate that disease transfer was not the result of antigen carry-over. Intravenous injection of sera from arthritic donors was incapable of passively transferring clinical or histologic synovitis in 30 recipients. Thus, these studies directly implicate immunologic sensitivity to the cartilage type of collagen in the etiology of this autoimmune disease.
David E. Trentham, Roselynn A. Dynesius, John R. David