Metalloproteinases produced by connective tissue cells may play a key part in the destruction of joints in rheumatoid arthritis. Matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3; stromelysin) capable of degrading cartilage proteoglycans and type IX collagen and of activating procollagenase was immunolocalised in hyperplastic synovial lining cells in rheumatoid synovium, but not in the cells of normal synovium. Cells responsible for synthesis of MMP-3 have the phenotype of synovioblasts (B cells) by immunoelectron microscopy, but not of phagocytic synovial macrophages (A cells). Cultured monolayer of rheumatoid synovial cells synthesises MMP-3 only under treatment with macrophage conditioned medium. Immunolocalisation of MMP-3 in rheumatoid synovium and cultured synovial cells was possible when the specimens were treated with a monovalent ionophore, monensin. These results suggest that MMP-3 is synthesised and secreted continuously without storage from hyperplastic synovioblasts stimulated by factor(s) derived from activated macrophages present in the synovium.
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