Sheep red cells (E) sensitized with IgG antibody (EA) or with antibody and complement (EAC) interact in vitro with mouse peritoneal macrophage monolayers. The role of IgG and of C3 in the attachment and ingestion of the erythrocytes was examined by means of quantitative technique utilizing 51Cr-labeled E. Controlled osmotic lysis permitted the separate measurement of the radioactivity associated with bound or with ingested E. IgG-125I was used to estimate the number of IgG molecules bound per E as a function of the IgG concentration. Control experiments showed that iodination did not influence the extent of binding of IgG to E and that the binding of IgG prepared from immune serum could be essentially ascribed to its anti-E antibody content. Only between 103 and 104 rabbit anti-E IgG molecules per erythrocyte were needed for detectable attachment and ingestion of EA (a maximum number of 6 x 105 IgG antibody molecules could be accomodated on one erythrocyte).
Evidence was obtained that C3 is primarily involved in particle attachment, whereas only IgG is able to markedly promote the ingestion of particles attached to macrophages: (a) Addition of complement to the EA substantially increased the binding to the macrophages, whereas ingestion was increased to a smaller extent. Both binding and ingestion of EAC were markedly inhibited by papain fragments of IgG obtained from a rabbit antiserum to mouse C3. (b) Low doses (2 µg/ml) of papain fragments of IgG from a rabbit antiserum to mouse IgG markedly reduced the ingestion of EAC, whereas attachment of EAC to macrophages was inhibited to a much smaller degree.
The possible relevance of these findings for the in vivo fate of particulate immune complexes as they interact with macrophages is discussed. It is suggested that in the primary immune response, when the complexes are predominantly in the form of EA (IgM) or EA (IgM) C3, they would tend to remain on the surface of the macrophages and thus be in a position to stimulate immunocompetent cells. In the secondary response, when EA (IgG) or EA (IgG) C3 predominate, the complexes would tend to be more rapidly interiorized and degraded by the mononuclear phagocytes,