In patients with inflammatory synovitis, the proliferative response by lymphocytes from synovial fluid to soluble mycobacterial antigens is enhanced relative to those from peripheral blood. Earlier studies suggested that γ δ T cell receptor positive (TCR+) T lymphocytes may significantly contribute to the mycobacterial-specific synovial fluid response. We therefore examined the relationship of the T cell proliferative response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens and the presence of γ δ TCR+ T cells employing several monoclonal antibodies. No consistent increase of γ δ TCR+ T cells was noted in inflammatory synovial fluids or tissues. Nonetheless, lymphocytes from the majority of the synovial fluids proliferated vigorously in response to water-soluble M. tuberculosis antigens. There was no relationship between the percentage of γ δ TCR+ T lymphocytes and the intensity of the proliferative response. In contrast, stimulation with whole mycobacterial organisms was capable of enriching the γ δ TCR+ cell population obtained from the peripheral blood of tuberculosis skin test positive normal controls and from some inflammatory synovial fluids. These observations do not support a role for mycobacteria reactive γ δ TCR+ synovial T lymphocytes in response to soluble mycobacterial antigens or in the local pathogenesis of inflammatory synovitis.
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