The identification of germinal centres and follicular dendritic cell networks in rheumatoid synovial tissue

Scand J Immunol. 1995 May;41(5):481-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.1995.tb03596.x.


We document here the identification of germinal centres with dark and light zones, a follicular dendritic cell network and clonal expansion in the synovium of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Synovial tissue from 24 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or the polyarticular form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis were screened for the presence of lymphoid follicles. The synovial tissues of 14 patients contained follicles and four of these had germinal centres and a follicular dendritic cell network. There was a statistically significant association between follicles in the synovium and the presence of rheumatoid factor autoantibodies in the patients' serum indicating a link between local germinal centre formation and the presence of pathological rheumatoid factors. Nucleotide sequencing of monoclonal rheumatoid factors from one of the patients' synovial tissue which contained germinal centres clearly supports the possibility that these rheumatoid factors have gone through a germinal centre reaction. While rheumatoid factors from healthy immunized donors are regulated through a tolerization mechanism which selects against replacement mutations and does not allow affinity maturation, synovial rheumatoid factors seem to lack this tolerization mechanism. The formation of germinal centres where B cells affinity mature and expand at the central site of disease in rheumatoid arthritis may explain why rheumatoid factors in rheumatoid arthritis develop into auto-aggressive antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibody Affinity
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Child
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, IgE / analysis
  • Rheumatoid Factor / analysis
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology*


  • Receptors, IgE
  • Rheumatoid Factor