Objective: To determine whether children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) express cellular immunity to cartilage link protein.
Methods: Link protein was purified from human fetal epiphyseal and bovine adult nasal cartilage. It was used in proliferation assays with the peripheral blood lymphocytes isolated from 54 children with JRA and 22 nonarthritic controls.
Results: Patients with JRA expressed a significantly higher prevalence of cellular proliferation to human link protein compared with the control group, independent of whether they had pauciarticular, polyarticular, or systemic disease. In the case of bovine link protein, significant differences were only noted for the polyarticular group. There was significant correlation between the immunity to bovine and to human link proteins. Furthermore, immune responses to both molecules correlated with measures of joint disease activity.
Conclusion: These results suggest that immunity to link protein may play a role in the pathogenesis of JRA.