Soluble oligonucleosomal complexes in synovial fluid from inflamed joints

Dan Yu, Peter M. Rumore, Qingli Liu, Charles R. Steinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine whether soluble oligonucleosomal DNA, typical of that released during apoptotic cell death, is present in synovial fluids from inflamed joints and, if so, whether it is present in sufficient concentrations to have pathophysiologic significance. Methods. Fifty synovial fluid specimens from 46 patients were studied, 41 from joints with a variety of inflammatory disorders and 9 from osteoarthritic joints. DNA from freshly collected synovial fluid was isolated and quantitated by microfluorometry, and the oligonucleosomal fraction was measured by radiolabeling, gel electrophoresis, and autoradiography. Specific immunoprecipitation with monoclonal antihistone antibody, after DNA radiolabeling in whole synovial fluid, was used to detect histone binding. Results. DNA with a typical oligonucleosomal ladder was observed in most specimens. The mean ± SD oligonucleosomal DNA concentration was 14.1 ± 18.5 μg/ml in synovial fluids from inflamed joints, considerably higher than that in osteoarthritic synovial fluids. Additionally, the DNA was shown to be complexed with histone, as would be expected. Control experiments were performed to show that the oligonucleosomal DNA was present in soluble form and did not arise due to in vitro artifact. The DNA concentrations were found to correlate significantly with the concentrations of synovial fluid leukocytes, most of which were neutrophils. Conclusion. Synovial fluids from inflamed joints contain oligonucleosomal DNA typical of that released during apoptotic cell death. The probable source is fluid-phase neutrophils undergoing apoptotic cell death, although this was not directly demonstrated. The concentrations are sufficient to have biologic activity similar to that shown in vitro, including lymphoproliferation and stimulation of interleukin-6 secretion. A mechanism by which oligonucleosomal DNA may contribute to perpetuation of rheumatoid synovitis is proposed. If it is generalizable to other sites of inflammation, as seems probable, similar oligonucleosomal DNA release accompanying inflammation may play a pathogenetic role in other disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-654
Number of pages7
JournalArthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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