Suppression of the synthesis of the fourth component of complement in vitro was originally accomplished by exposing cultured guinea pig peritoneal cells to anti-C4 alloantisera. When guinea pig splenic fragments were used instead of peritoneal cells, equivalent antibody treatment produced C4 suppression of significantly longer duration, lasting weeks instead of days after removal of antibody. As with peritoneal cell monolayers, antibody treatment induced specific suppression of C4 followed by nonspecific stimulation of C4 and other proteins such as C2. Although IgG2 is more readily sequestered by splenic tissue, both IgG1 and IgG2 antibodies were effective in inducing and maintaining suppression. Experiments with radiolabeled antibody demonstrated that a small amount (less than 5%) of the original dose of antibody was retained by the splenic fragments. Because there was no continuous slow release of that antibody, long-term suppression of C4 cannot be explained as a fluid-phase neutralization reaction. Because antibody treatment might induce production of aberrant C4 molecules with no functional activity, C4 antigens was also studied. Tissue culture supernatants were assayed by using an ELISA for C4. In none of these experiments was extracellular C4 antigen detectable immediately after antibody treatment. Extracellular and intracellular C4 were immunoprecipitated from biosynthetically labeled tissue cultures and analyzed by SDS-PAGE. Antibody treatment suppressed intracellular C4 as well as extracellular C4. Although extracellular C4 levels of antibody-treated cultures eventually returned to levels comparable to untreated cultures, intracellular C4 levels of treated fragments remained lower than controls for the full period of observation (22 days). Therefore, a short (4-day) exposure to anti-C4 antibody induced long-term effects that profoundly altered regulation of C4 synthesis and secretion by cultured splenic macrophages.

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