1. Sensitization confers upon the red cell the property of adsorbing complement from solution. The submicroscopic film of immune serum protein deposited upon the cell surface during sensitization, and completely analogous to the precipitate formed in a soluble antigen-antibody reaction (e.g., sheep serum vs. rabbit anti-sheep serum) acts as absorbent, the degree of sensitization (size of the film) determining the amount of complement "fixed" (adsorbed).
2. This adsorption of complement by the sensitized cell is an essential preliminary to hemolysis, and when inhibited, even large quantities of demonstrably active complement have no hemolytic action. The marked influence of electrolytes and of the hydrogen ion concentration upon hemolysis is due primarily to corresponding effects upon the fixation of complement by the sensitized cell. In the case of salts with monovalent cations, complement fixation (and hemolysis) is completely inhibited at any concentration < 0.02 M or > 0.35 M. Electrolytes with bivalent cations are much more inhibitory, and in low as concentration 0.07 M completely prevent fixation (and hemolysis).
The optimal reaction for complement fixation (and hemolysis) is pH 6.5 to 8.0. In slightly more acid range both are inhibited. But at a reaction pH 5.3, and in the alkaline range, there is an irreversible inactivation of complement, complete at pH 4.8 and 8.8 respectively.
It is perhaps more than a coincidence that complement fixation, and therefore, hemolysis, are prevented by just those factors which suppress the ionization of serum proteins, and lead to an increased aggregation state. Between a suspension of macroscopically visible particles of euglobulin in distilled water, and a solution is physiological saline, there is certainly a gradual transition, manifested at low electrolyte concentrations by the opacity of the solution. At pH 7.4, globulin would ionize as a Na-salt, an ionization inhibited as the isoelectric point (5.3) is approached, with a coincident greater tendency of the globulin to separate from solution. And the cataphoretic velocity of particles of globulin, as well as all the other properties which are a function of its ionization (viscosity, osmotic pressure, etc.), are suppressed by electrolytes, the degree of suppression being determined by the concentration and valence of the cation (on the alkaline side of the isoelectric point). The analogy with complement fixation is too complete to be dismissed as fortuitous.
3. The fact that the degree of complement "fixation" increases with the degree of sensitization explains one of the most puzzling phenomena in hemolysis,—that immune serum and complement are, to a certain extent, interchangeable, a decrease in either factor being compensated by an increase in the other (8), (20), (22). The explanation is evident from Figs. 1,2, and 3. The exact quantitative relationships involved will be developed in a later paper. With increasing sensitization there is an enormously more complete and more rapid fixation of complement, and correspondingly more rapid hemolysis, exactly the effect produced by increasing the quantity of complement instead of amboceptor (Fig. 3). All other variables being constant, the velocity of hemolysis is determined by the amount of complement adsorbed. With more amboceptor, a greater proportion is "fixed" by the cell; with more complement, a smaller proportion, but a larger absolute amount. The result is the same: more complement adsorbed, and a corresponding acceleration of hemolysis.
If this mobilization of complement is the sole function of immuneserum (and there is as yet no reason to assume any other), then the accepted terminology, in which amboceptor, immune body, and hemolysin are used synonymously, is erroneous. The immune body would function only as an "amboceptor," mobilizing the effective hemolysin, complement, upon the surface of the cell.
Nothing has been said of the multiple components into which complement may be split. A priori, it would be expected that the adsorption demonstrated is of the so called midpiece fraction.