Activation of a galactosidase-specific murine T hybridoma clone and of a human tetanus toxoid-specific T clone by antigen-presenting cells (APC) was used to evaluate the regulatory function of antibodies complexed with the relevant antigen. Complexed antigen, in fact, is taken up with high efficiency thanks to Fc receptors borne by APC. Antibody/antigen ratio in the complexes proved to be a critical parameter in enhancing antigen presentation. Complexes in moderate antibody excess provided optimal T cell activation independently of the physical state of the complexes (precipitated by a second antibody or solubilized by complement). Complexes in extreme antibody excess, on the contrary, did not yield T cell activation although taken up by APC efficiently. The effect of antibodies at extreme excess was observed with substimulatory dose of antigen (loss of potentiation) and with optimal dose of antigen (loss of stimulation). An excess of specific polyclonal antibodies hampers proteolytic degradation of antigen in vitro, supporting the view that a similar mechanism may operate within the APC that have internalized immune complexes in extreme antibody excess. The possibility that immune complex forming in extreme antibody excess may turn off the T cell response is proposed as a regulatory mechanism.

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