The mechanisms by which immune complexes deposit in the glomerular basement membrane have been the subject of much debate, with the relative importance of direct deposition of circulating immune complexes (IC) vs. formation of IC in situ from the binding of circulating antibody to structural or exogenous planted antigen being at issue. In order to determine whether intact IC can deposit as such, covalently linked IC were prepared by a two-step reaction involving the bifunctional reagent toluene-2,4-diisocyanate (TDI), the antigen bovine gamma globulin (BGG), and rabbit anti-BGG antibody. Antigen and antibody were covalently cross-linked, with little self-linkage of antigen or antibody, and IC were purified by gel filtration. The net charge of the complexes was varied by chemical means, either before or after IC formation. When cationic IC were injected intravenously into mice, there was codeposition of antigen and antibody diffusely in the glomerular basement membrane (GBM), and deposits were observed ultrastructurally in the laminae rarae, interna and externa, and the lamina densa. Thus, under conditions of restricted appropriate charge, intact IC can cross the glomerular basement membrane and deposit in subepithelial sites without being excluded by size alone.

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