The functional and immunochemical characteristics of serum opsonic activity in rodent malaria were examined in the present study. Schizont- and late trophozoite-enriched populations of Plasmodium berghei-infected red blood cells (IRBC) were isolated on a Ficoll density-gradient and used in an in vitro phagocytosis system composed of serum and monolayer cultures of rat peritoneal macrophages. Hyperimmune serum augmented the phagocytosis of IRBC to a greater degree than did nonimmune serum. When either IRBC or macrophages were pre-incubated with serum, the phagocytosis-promoting factors acted on the IRBC rather than on the macrophages in a manner characteristic of serum opsonins. The opsonic activity was specific for IRBC since noninfected red blood cells were rarely phagocytized and were unable to absorb opsonic activity from serum. The opsonic activity of both hyperimmune and nonimmune sera was heat stable, and unaffected by agents known to inactivate or inhibit complement (cobra venom factor and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). Finally, the opsonic activity was identified in preparations of purified IgG isolated from both hyperimmune and nonimmune sera.

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