Hapten-antibody complexes prepared at equivalence with the bivalent hapten bis-DNP-octamethylene-diamine and purified rabbit anti-DNP antibody were fractionated by Sepharose gel-filtration and the fractions examined by electron microscopy. Individual fractions were tested for whole-complement fixation and C1 fixation. Dimer forms did not show this type of biological activity, while fractions containing tetramers and larger polymers exhibited both C and C1 fixation, which could be inhibited by prior exposure of the complexes to the univalent hapten epsilon-DNP-caproic acid. The dose-response result indicated that the C-fixation observed was not due to interpolymeric cooperative effects.
It was concluded that in the generation of biological activity by soluble antigen-antibody complexes made with complement-fixing antibody, quaternary structural changes following specific combination with antigen may be as important as any tertiary structural alterations that occur in the individual immunoglobulin molecule.