Metallothionein is a ubiquitous low molecular weight metalloprotein with powerful protective properties against oxygen radical-mediated cytotoxicity associated with inflammatory processes. In rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammatory damage to the synovium appears to be mediated by free radicals released by the high concentration of neutrophils found in the synovial fluid of the inflamed joint. Synovial tissue obtained during routine surgery on rheumatoid and non-rheumatoid joints was subjected to an indirect immunoperoxidase protocol for the immunolocalization of metallothionein using mouse monoclonal anti-metallothionein antibody E9, reactive against the two major isoforms of mammalian metallothionein. A layer of large dendritic-like cells situated subsynovially in the rheumatoid synovium stained very positively for the metalloprotein, both cytoplasmically and in their nuclei. These cells were not found in non-rheumatoid osteoarthritic or in undamaged synovial tissue associated with traumatic joint injury. An attempt was made to investigate their lineage using a series of antibody markers against epithelial cells, endothelial cells, smooth muscle, mesothelial cells, fibroblasts, neutrophils, dermal dendrocytes, macrophages, low and high molecular weight cytokeratin as well as a cell proliferation marker. From our results, it is suggested that these metallothionein-positive cells are probably myofibroblasts similar to the highly motile cells present in granulation tissue. They may originate from perivascular areas of synovium and their movement into the inflamed synovium may reflect the cytoprotective role of metallothionein acting as a free radical scavenger against oxidative damage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology