Rat models are useful for studies of the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) since rats are extraordinarily sensitive to induction of arthritis with adjuvants. Injection of not only the classical complete Freund's adjuvant but also mineral oil without mycobacteria and pure adjuvants such as pristane and squalene, induce severe arthritis in many rat strains. Models like pristane-induced arthritis in rats are optimal models for RA since they fulfill the RA criteria including a chronic relapsing disease course. Arthritogenic adjuvants like pristane, avridine, squalene and mineral oil are not immunogenic since they do not contain major histocompatibility complex (MHC) binding peptides. Nevertheless, the diseases are MHC-associated and dependent on the activation of alphabetaTCR (T-cell receptor)-expressing T cells. However, it has not been possible to link the immune response to joint antigens or other endogenous components although immunization with various cartilage proteins induce arthritis but with different pathogeneses. To unravel the mechanisms behind adjuvant-induced arthritis, a disease-oriented genetic approach is optimal. Several loci that control onset of arthritis, severity and chronicity of the disease have been identified in genetic crosses and most of these have been confirmed in congenic strains. In addition, many of these loci are found in other autoimmune models in the rat as well as associated with arthritis in mice and humans.
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