1. The effects of normal rabbit serum and of rabbit antiserum to whole foetal mouse tissues, on the isolated limb bones of late foetal mice were studied in organ culture, and the influence of hydrocortisone on these effects was investigated.
2. Unheated normal serum caused slight loss of metachromatic material from the cartilage matrix, and some resorption of both cartilage and bone.
3. In unheated antiserum to foetal mouse tissues, the terminal cartilage was smaller and less metachromatic than in paired controls in normal serum, while osteoclasis was so intense that in many explants the bone had almost disappeared. The amount of necrosis varied with different batches of antiserum.
4. The changes produced by normal serum and antiserum could be largely prevented by heating the sera to 57°C for 45 minutes.
5. The effects could also be inhibited by the addition of hydrocortisone to the unheated sera; as little as 0.1 µg hydrocortisone per ml of medium had a well marked protective action.
6. It is suggested that (a) unheated antiserum causes a release of lysosomal enzymes with consequent breakdown of intercellular material, (b) this release is due to an indirect action on the lysosome via an increased permeability of the cell membrane, (c) hydrocortisone does not affect the antigen-antibody reaction, but inhibits the autolytic changes that normally follow this reaction, possibly by stabilising both the lysosomal and cell membranes.