The adult respiratory distress syndrome is characterized by arterial hypoxemia as a result of increased alveolar capillary permeability to serum proteins in the setting of normal capillary hydrostatic pressures. Because bacterial sepsis is prominent among the various diverse conditions associated with altered alveolar capillary permeability, we studied the effect of bacteremia with attendant complement activation on the sequestration of microorganisms and the leakage of albumin in the lungs of guinea pigs. Pneumococci were injected intravenously into guinea pigs and their localization was studied. Unlike normal guinea pigs, complement-depleted guinea pigs did not localize injected bacteria to the lungs. Preopsonization of organisms did not correct this defect in pulmonary localization of bacteria in complement-depleted animals, suggesting that a fluid-phase component of complement activation was required. Genetically C5-deficient mice showed no pulmonary localization of bacteria. C5-sufficient mice demonstrated the usual pulmonary localization, thus further suggesting that the activation of C5 might be important in this localization. The infusion of activated C5 increased alveolar capillary permeability to serum proteins as assayed by the amount of radioactive albumin sequestered in the lung. Neutropenic animals did not develop altered capillary permeability after challenge with activated C5. Thus, complement activation through C5, in the presence of neutrophils, induces alterations in pulmonary alveolar capillary permeability and causes localization of bacteria to the pulmonary parenchyma. Complement activation in other disease states could potentially result in similar clinical manifestations.
Stephen Hosea, Eric Brown, Carl Hammer, Michael Frank