Collagen fibers in synovial fluid sediment were described a decade ago. Since then, tissue-specific collagen molecules (types) have been characterized. Techniques were devised to identify the collagen types in joint fluid sediment. Collagens were found in 12 of 17 pellets prepared from fluid aspirates from 17 knee joints of patients with various forms of arthritis. Collagen types I and III and polypeptide chains A and B (basement membrane collagen) were specifically identified in four of seven fluids from patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and in a single fluid from a patient with severe septic arthritis. This "collagen profile" was identical to that of rheumatoid synovium. Type II collagen, characteristic of hyaline articular cartilage, was found in two of six fluids from osteoarthritic joints. The presence of sufficient collagen (about 5 μg) to permit typing was correlated with roentgenpgraphic evidence of joint space narrowing; the presence of the "synovial" collagen profile was correlated with decreased joint fluid pH.
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