A factor, functionally characterized by its capacity to stabilize the normally labile classical pathway C3-converting complex of the classical pathway of complement, has been isolated from the serum of one patient with a case of acute glomerulonephritis, subsequent to a cutaneous infection. The factor confers long-lived stabilization of classical pathway C3 convertase complexes formed both in the solid (sensitized sheep erythrocytes bearing activated C̄1̄ and the classical pathway C3 convertase) and fluid phase. The half-life of such stabilized C3-cleaving enzymes extended beyond several hours at 37°C. The stabilizing activity was associated with a protein fraction immunochemically identified as immunoglobulin (Ig)G, a sizeable population of which exhibited a gamma chain of 60,000 daltons. The IgG-associated stabilizing activity was found to bind to the classical pathway C3 convertase enzyme via a fragment bearing the antigen-binding site of the molecule [F(ab)2 and F(ab)]. Such binding was demonstrable for classical pathway and not for alternative pathway C3 convertase. Thus, the stabilizing factor behaves like an autoantibody to the C3-converting complex of the classical pathway of complement. The binding of the antibody to the enzyme affords protection of the latter against decay-degradation. By analogy with the nephritic factor of the alternative pathway situation where IgG autoantibodies specifically bind to alternative pathway C3 convertase enzymes and protect them from degradation, the functionally unusual IgG in our patient was designated as the nephritic factor of the classical pathway. Indirect evidence suggests that nephritic factor of the classical pathway-IgG might be of the IgG3 subclass.
L. Halbwachs, M. Leveillé, Ph. Lesavre, S. Wattel, J. Leibowitch