The mechanism was sought by which bactericidal IgG for E. coli 0111 (strain 12015) increases the bactericidal efficiency of C5b-9. IgG did not affect the distribution of C3 deposition on the O-Ag capsule and the outer membrane of 12015, suggesting that bactericidal IgG was not directing complement activation to different sites on the bacterial surface. However, one-fifth of the C3 that was deposited in the presence of IgG attached covalently to the antibody molecule. Covalent complexes between purified C3b and IgG were prepared in order to study the role of C3b-IgG in the bactericidal reaction. 8-10-fold less C3b-IgG than IgG was necessary to sensitize 12015 for serum killing. When aggregates were eliminated from the C3b-IgG and IgG preparations by sucrose density gradient ultracentrifugation, C3b-IgG remained three- to fourfold more effective than IgG on a molecule-for-molecule bound basis in mediating the serum bactericidal reaction. These results suggest that formation of C3b-IgG during the serum bactericidal reaction is critical for killing, and have important implications for the development of effective bactericidal vaccines.

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