Streptococcus pyogenes is the main causative pathogen of recurrent tonsillitis. Histologically, lesions of recurrent tonsillitis contain numerous plasma cells. Strep A is an antigenic carbohydrate molecule on the cell wall of S. pyogenes. As expected, plasma cells in subjects with recurrent tonsillitis secrete antibodies against Strep A. The enzyme-labeled antigen method is a novel histochemical technique that visualizes specific antibody-producing cells in tissue sections by employing a biotin-labeled antigen as a probe. The purpose of the present study was to visualize plasma cells producing antibodies reactive with Strep A in recurrent tonsillitis. Firstly, the lymph nodes of rats immunized with boiled S. pyogenes were paraformaldehyde-fixed and specific plasma cells localized in frozen sections with biotinylated Strep A. Secondly, an enzyme-labeled antigen method was used on human tonsil surgically removed from 12 patients with recurrent tonsillitis. S. pyogenes genomes were PCR-detected in all 12 specimens. The emm genotypes belonged to emm12 in nine specimens and emm1 in three. Plasma cells producing anti-Strep A antibodies were demonstrated in prefixed frozen sections of rat lymph nodes, 8/12 human specimens from patients with recurrent tonsillitis but not in two control tonsils. In human tonsils, Strep A-reactive plasma cells were observed within the reticular squamous mucosa and just below the mucosa, and the specific antibodies belonged to either IgA or IgG classes. Our technique is effective in visualizing immunocytes producing specific antibodies against the bacterial carbohydrate antigen, and is thus a novel histochemical tool for analyzing immune reactions in infectious disorders.
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