First published February 1, 1983 - More info
Previous in vitro studies have shown that immune complexes (IC) that fix complement can bind to the C3b receptor on primate erythrocytes. The in vivo function of this erythrocyte receptor, however, is unknown. This study was undertaken to determine whether the binding of IC to erythrocytes in vivo might play a role in the removal of IC from the circulation. Baboons and rhesus monkeys were prepared with a catheter in the ascending aorta to infuse IC and in the abdominal aorta, renal, hepatic, and portal veins to monitor changes in binding and clearance of IC across kidney, liver, and spleen + gut, respectively. Autologous 51Cr-labeled erythrocytes were infused intravenously and allowed to equilibrate. Preformed IC (125I-labeled bovine serum albumin [BSA] rabbit anti-BSA) were then infused into the ascending aorta at a constant rate for 120 s. Blood samples were drawn at frequent intervals for 30 min from all catheters below the IC injection site. Each blood sample was then centrifuged on percoll to separate IC bound to erythrocytes from IC in plasma or bound to buffy coat cells. This resulted in an "erythrocyte fraction" beneath the percoll that contained the IC bound to erythrocytes, and a "plasma/buffy coat fraction" above the percoll that contained the IC in plasma and IC bound to buffy coat cells. Analysis of these data showed that the majority of the IC infused into the circulation rapidly became bound to erythrocytes. However, by 5 min after beginning the IC infusion, most of this IC load had been removed from the erythrocytes as they traversed the liver. In contrast, IC on erythrocytes did not deposit in kidney. The IC-bearing erythrocytes themselves were not trapped or detained by any organ. IC in the plasma/buffy coat fraction of blood were removed from the circulation but at a relatively low rate and almost entirely by the liver. These findings suggest that primate erythrocytes intercept large complement-fixing IC in the circulation causing the IC to adhere to the erythrocyte until th e IC-bearing erythrocyte traverses liver where the IC is deposited, and the erythrocyte is returned to the circulation. This primate erythrocyte-IC-clearing mechanism may be important in the protection against diseases mediated by deposition of circulating IC.