Erythrocyte survival studies of complement-coated radiolabeled erythrocytes have shown rapid removal of these cells from the peripheral blood with a return of these cells into the circulation within a few hours. We studied complement-coated human erythrocytes and measured surface charge and deformability, two parameters believed to be important in erythrocyte survival. Erythrocytes were coated with complement by two in vitro techniques: the addition of (a) low ionic strength sucrose, and (b) IgM cold agglutinins. Erythrocytes obtained from three patients with cold agglutinin disease were used as a source of in vivo complement-coated cells. No difference was found in surface charge as measured by electrophoretic mobility between erythrocytes from normal subjects and complement-coated erythrocytes from any of the three sources. When deformability was measured by filtration through 3-mum polycarbonate sieves, marked decreases in deformability were found in complement-coated erythrocytes. The filtration returned toward control levels by incubating the complement-coated erythrocytes in serum for 1 h and correlated with decreases in immune adherence. Using screen filtration pressure as a measure of deformability, a positive correlation between number of C3 molecules per erythrocyte and decreased deformability was found. C3b appeared responsible for the decreased deformability of the erythrocytes, since conversion of C3b to C3d resulted in a return of deformability toward normal. The data suggested that the sequestration of complement-coated human erythrocytes in the microvasculature can be explained in part by decreased deformability and changes in immune adherence.
J R Durocher, J P Gockerman, M E Conrad