The mechanism of protection of type-specific antipneumococcal antibody and complement in bacteremia was investigated with purified rabbit antibody and a guinea pig model of pneumococcal bacteremia. IgG and IgM were isolated from the sera of rabbits immunized with type 7 pneumococci (Pn), and their binding to Pn was quantitated. The number of antibody-binding sites on the pnuemococcal capsule was also determined. Pn were incubated with various amounts of the immunoglobulin preparations before intravenous injection into nonimmune guinea pigs. Whereas 120 molecules of IgM per Pn were sufficient to enhance bloodstream clearance of Pn, 1,400 molecules of IgG per bacterium were required to produce this effect. As the amount of either IgG or IgM added to the Pn was increased, the rate of bloodstream clearance accelerated. In striking contrast, greater than 1,000 molecules of IgM had no effect on the rate of clearance in C4-deficient guinea pigs, which cannot activate complement via the classic pathway. Similarly, 5,000 molecules of IgG had only minimal effect in C4-deficient guinea pigs, and 24,000 molecules of IgG had no effect in guinea pigs depleted of complement by cobra venom factor. Thus, the in vivo opsonic effects of both IgG and IgM anticapsular antibody are mediated via their ability to activate complement. IgG anti-pneumococcal cell wall antibody, raised by intravenous injection of rabbits with unencapsulated Pn, had no effect on the rate of bloodstream clearance of Pn or on the polymorphonuclear leukocyte killing of type 7 Pn in an in vitro bacterial assay. Because the opsonic effects of anticapsular antibody required complement activation, the ability of anticell wall IgG to activate complement was compared with the two classes of anticapsular antibody. As judged by depletion of C3 and C4 from guinea pig serum, as well as by the fixation of radiolabeled C3 to Pn, IgM anticapsular antibody was the best complement activator. However, anticell wall IgG was somewhat more active than anticapsular IgG in each of these tests of complement activation and fixation. When equivalent amounts of C3 were fixed to Pn by each of the three antibodies, Pn sensitized with IgG and IgM anticapsular antibodies caused immune adherence, whereas Pn sensitized with anticell wall IgG did not. This may explain the failure of anticell wall antibody of mediate complement-dependent phagocytosis of Pn in vivo or in vitro. Although anticell wall IgG is capable of activating complement and fixing C3 to Pn, it is not opsonic; the most likely reason is that the nonopsonic antibody mediates C3 deposition in sites on the Pn that cannot interact efficiently with phagocytic cell C3 receptors.


E J Brown, S W Hosea, C H Hammer, C G Burch, M M Frank


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