OBJECTIVE:To investigate the occurrence of IgG antibodies to aggrecan in synovial fluids (SF) from patients with arthritis and various articular diseases, and to determine the nature of epitopes present within aggrecan that react with these antibodies. METHODS:SF samples were reacted with native aggrecan, reduced and alkylated aggrecan, chondroitin sulfate, and keratan sulfate, using dot-blots and a novel enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The nature of the epitopes present on aggrecan was elucidated using Western blots and a competitive inhibition ELISA. RESULTS:IgG antibodies to aggrecan were found in > 50% of the SF samples tested. No IgG antibody reactivity was observed in serum from the same patients. The antibodies appeared to react predominantly with native aggrecan, and there was no disease specificity. It was shown that the epitopes to these antibodies were located within the N-terminal region of the core protein. CONCLUSION:This study demonstrates the frequent occurrence of IgG antibodies to aggrecan in human SF. The major epitope is located in the G1 domain of the aggrecan core protein. These IgG antibodies appear to be produced locally within the synovial cavity, probably in response to various articular diseases, resulting in the loss of native aggrecan from articular cartilage.