We assessed the effects of exposure to immune complexes in vivo on macrophages' Fc receptor function and C3 receptor function. Peritoneal macrophages from mice injected intraperitoneally with immune complexes were markedly impaired in their ability to phagocytize via their Fc receptors but had acquired the ability to phagocytize via their C3 receptors. In vivo activation of macrophages' C3 receptors for phagocytosis required T lymphocytes, because macrophages from athymic mice could not be activated by injection of immune complexes. The requirement for both T lymphocytes and immune complexes for activation of macrophages' C3 receptors in vivo is identical to the requirements for activation of macrophages' C3 receptors in vitro, suggesting that the mechanisms we have identified for activation of these receptors in vitro are the same mechanisms by which the receptors are activated for phagocytosis in vivo. The susceptibility of macrophages' Fc receptors to blockade by immune complexes and the activation of their C3 receptors for phagocytosis in a milieu containing immune complexes suggest that it may be macrophages' C3 receptors, not their Fc receptors, that are primarily responsible for promoting phagocytosis of opsonized microorganisms in immune hosts.

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