Light and electron microscopic studies on the synovial membrane in Reiter's syndrome. Immunocytochemical identification of chlamydial antigen in patients with early disease

Arthritis Rheum. 1988 Aug;31(8):937-46. doi: 10.1002/art.1780310801.


Studies by light microscopy on synovium obtained from 11 patients with Reiter's syndrome during the first month of an episode showed proliferation of synovial lining cells, polymorphonuclear neutrophils among the synovial lining cells, increased surface fibrin, and vascular congestion. Biopsy specimens taken later showed vascular congestion and still proliferated synovial lining cells, fewer polymorphonuclear neutrophils in some, and a tendency toward increased infiltration with lymphocytes and plasma cells. Electron microscopy of samples from 8 patients during the first month of disease activity showed occlusion of vessels by platelets in 4, and fibrin or dense granular material in the vessel walls in 4. Five of the patients with arthritis of less than 4 weeks duration had unidentified intracellular and extracellular particles; some of these were highly suggestive of Chlamydia. No such particles were noted in samples from patients with more chronic cases. Using an antibody to Chlamydia trachomatis and the peroxidase-antiperoxidase technique, immunocytochemistry showed reaction product in synovial macrophages in 2 patients with arthritis of less than 4 weeks duration, but not in the 1 patient studied who had more chronic disease. These studies provide support for dramatic synovial vascular injury consistent with that caused by endotoxin and the presence of chlamydial antigen in synovial macrophages, at least in the early phases of synovitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Arthritis, Reactive / etiology
  • Arthritis, Reactive / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Chlamydia Infections / immunology*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Inclusion Bodies / ultrastructure
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial