Cell walls from M+ and M- protein variants of group A streptococci were examined for their arthritogenicity in female Lewis rats. Intraperitoneal administration of both of these sonicated cell wall preparations caused a severe acute and chronic arthritis in recipient rats. Histological evaluation of the hind paw of these rats indicated synovial lining hyperplasia, cell infiltration in the subsynovial space, pannus formation, and erosions of bone and cartilage. Joint pathology was similar in the hind paws of rats immunized with cell walls prepared from either the M+ or the M- protein variants. Cell-mediated immunity was also similar when lymph nodes were exposed to cell walls derived from these two preparations. A recombinant M6 protein from streptococci did not elicit a proliferative response from lymph nodes prepared from arthritic rats. These observations indicate that the M protein that has previously been implicated in autoimmunity does not have a critical role in the pathogenesis of streptococcal cell wall arthritis in rats.
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