Structural requirements for membrane antigens on target cells to mediate immune cytolysis were studied in a model system with purified membrane proteins from Semliki Forest virus (SFV). These SFV spike proteins were isolated in the form of detergent- and lipid-free protein micelles (29S complexes) or, after reconstitution into lipid vesicles, in the form of virosomes. Both the 29S complexes and the virosomes were found to bind well to murine tumor cells (P815 or Eb). When these cells, however, were used as target cells in complement-dependent lysis or in antibody-dependent cell- mediated cytotoxicity assays in the presence of anti-SFV serum, they were not lysed, although they effectively bound the antibody and consumed complement. The same tumor cells infected with SFV served as positive controls in both assays.
Different results were obtained when inactivated Sendai virus was added as a fusion reagent to the cells coated with either virosomes or 29S complexes. Under these conditions the virosome-coated cells became susceptible to SFV- specific lysis, whereas the 29S complex-coated cells remained resistant. Evidence that the susceptibility to lysis ofvirosome-coated cells was dependent on active fusion and, therefore, integration of the viral antigens into the lipid bilayer of the target cells was derived from control experiments with enzyme-treated Sendai virus preparations.
The 29S complexes and the virosomes partially and selectively blocked the target cell lysis by anti-H-2 sera but not by anti-non-H-2 sera confirming our previous finding that major histocompatibility antigens serve as receptors for SFV. The general significance of these findings for mechanisms of immune cytolysis is dicussed.