In vitro studies were performed utilizing sera from a strain of guinea pigs with a total absence of hemolytically active C4. Previous studies in these animals have demonstrated normal complement-dependent inflammatory reactions, suggesting that they are able to bypass their deficiency of C4. In vitro studies with C4-deficient serum also indicate normal activation of late-acting C components. Thus, endotoxin was capable of fixing normal amounts of the late components of complement (C3-9) in these sera, but did not fix C1 and C2. Antigen-antibody complexes fixed both early and late components of complement, although components beyond C4 were fixed less efficiently than in normal sera. Therefore, both in vivo and in vitro evidence indicates that the C4-deficient guinea pigs possess an alternate pathway for activation of late-acting complement components.
Antigenic analysis of C4-deficient serum utilizing both guinea pig anti-C4 antibody and rabbit anti-C4 antibody suggests an absolute deficiency of C4-like molecules. Sera from animals with C4-deficiency were found to have one-half the normal level of C2. Sera from five of eight animals tested had 10–20% normal C1 activity. C3-9 assayed as a complex was normal.