Seminal plasma diluted 1:5-1:1,000 gave marked inhibition of serum antibody complement-mediated bactericidal and opsonic effects against Neisseria gonorrhoeae and other gram-negative organisms. Serum that was bactericidal at a dilution of 1:5,120 was not bactericidal at a dilution of 1:10 when seminal plasma was added. Bactericidal action of immune human or rabbit sera, or purified immunoglobulin (Ig)G or IgM plus complement for six strains of N. gonorrhoeae, serogroups A, B, C, and Y of Neisseria meningitidis, Escherichia coli and other gram-negative rods was inhibited by seminal plasma. Using C8- or C7-deficient sera as antibody and complement sources, opsonization, phagocytosis, and killing of N. gonorrhoeae and E. coli 014-K7 were inhibited by seminal plasma. Opsonization, phagocytosis, and killing of Staphylococcus aureus 502A was not inhibited. For the gram-negative organisms, the early phase of the opsonization process, probably complement activation, appeared to be inhibited rather than the ingestion or polymorphonuclear leukocyte killing steps; addition of seminal plasma yielded a significant reduction in the percentage of polymorphonuclear cells with associated bacteria. Seminal plasma did not prevent attachment of IgG, IgM, or IgA antibodies to gonococci. It reduced serum hemolytic whole complement activity by 25%. The seminal plasma inhibitor was of low molecular weight and was stable at 56 degrees C for 30 min, but inhibitory activity was lost after heating to 100 degrees C for 10 min. It is likely that the inhibitory factor(s) is a low-molecular weight protease or protease inhibitor. Seminal plasma probably has an important role in inhibition of complement and antibody functions in the genital tract. It may enhance pathogenesis of agents of sexually transmitted diseases.
G F Brooks, C J Lammel, B H Petersen, D P Stites