We asked whether binding of human immunoglobulin (Ig)G antibody reacting with Raji cells could be distinguished from binding of IgG immune complexes. Using a standard Raji assay employing 125I-IgG goat anti-human Fc gamma, we found that digestion of Raji cells with pronase reduced by 95% their ability to bind complement-fixed aggregated human gamma globulin and complement-fixed tetanus toxoid-antitetanus toxin complexes. However, binding at 37 degrees C of IgG from the sera of 16 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) to pronase-digested Raji cells was reduced much less consistently and extensively (9-100% reduction; mean reduction of 51%). In more detailed studies of two SLE sera, sucrose density gradient centrifugation showed that greater than 50% of the IgG binding to undigested Raji cells sedimented in the 7S region. Pepsin digestion of immunoglobulin fractions from four SLE sera caused a reduction in SLE IgG binding to undigested Raji cells when detected with 125I anti-Fc gamma, but an increase when binding was detected with 125I-anti-Fab, suggesting that substantial SLE IgG can bind through F(ab')2 regions. Binding of IgG from SLE sera was not directed at neoantigenic sites induced by pronase digestion because binding activity was adsorbed with undigested cells as readily as with digested cells. Moreover, sera from 10 SLE patients that had negative Raji assays contained no IgG that bound to pronase-digested Raji cells. We conclude that much of the IgG bound at 37 degrees C to Raji cells from the sera of many patients with SLE does not represent immune complexes but is probably antibody directed toward sites on the Raji cell.
C L Anderson, W S Stillman