In this paper we re-examine the roles of particle-bound IgG and C3 in phagocytosis of sheep erythrocytes (E) by monolayers of purified human monocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN). We conclude that two fragments of the C3 molecule, that is, C3b and C3d, can function as opsonins if the phagocyte has the appropriate membrane receptors. Monocytes, that bind both C3b and C3d, respond to both as opsonins. PMN, which do not bind C3d, respond only to particles opsonized with C3b. C3 and IgG have separate roles in phagocytosis. IgG, through its Fc fragment, directly stimulates particle ingestion, but is relatively inefficient at inducing particle binding. On the other hand, C3 primarily mediates the binding of the particle via complement receptors. A marked synergy exists between C3 and IgG in inducing phagocytosis. Thus, opsonization of the particle with C3 can be a necessary condition for particle ingestion, although by itself C3 does not trigger phagocytosis. The opsonic effect of C3 can be mimicked by a variety of nonimmunologic agents which enhance binding of the particle to the phagocyte without directly stimulating ingestion. The contact-inducing agents used include centrifugation of particle and phagocyte, high molecular weight dextran, protamine, and treatment of E with neuraminidase. These results suggest that the role of C3 in opsonization is mainly or exclusively one of establishing contact between particle and phagocyte.

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