Antibodies specific for the mucopeptide and group-specific C polysaccharide antigens of Group A streptococcal cell walls were prepared by acid dissociation of immune precipitates, and labeled with either fluorescein or 125I.
Employing both fluorescent and radioautographic procedures the persistence of the antigens was followed in skin sites injected with cell wall fragments. Both antigens persisted within macrophages for at least 54 days in those animals which developed no chronic tissue response. In animals which did develop chronic nodular lesions the concentration of antigen decreased as the inflammatory process subsided. Lesion activity was thus associated with the presence of cell wall material.
The fate of these antigens was also determined following the intradermal injection of intact Group A streptococcal cells. Cell wall antigens persisted in the tissue site considerably longer than morphologically identifiable streptococci, indicating that cell wall fragments are released during dismantling of streptococci in phagocytic cells.