The role of complement and its receptor on erythrocytes (CR1) in the physiologic elimination of large immune complexes from the circulation of humans was assessed. Large radiolabeled soluble tetanus toxoid- anti-tetanus toxoid complexes were injected i.v. into three normal individuals and three patients with SLE. These complexes were prepared in antibody excess and were 45S in size, fixed C and bound to E CR1 in vitro. The percentage of complexes bound in vitro was directly proportional to CR1 number/E in four normal subjects and three SLE patients. After i.v. injection into normal subjects, complexes were cleared rapidly, with a monoexponential rate constant (10.3 to 11% complexes cleared/min). In the SLE patients, clearance was best explained by two phases: the first occurred within the first minute indicating immediate trapping of a fraction of the complexes (19.5 to 25.3% of injected complexes trapped), the second was monoexponential and was similar to the normal range. A large fraction of complexes bound within the first minute to E in vivo; the percentage of binding was variable, ranging from 16.3% to 71.5% and was related to E CR1 number. In a second study complexes were injected that had been attached to autologous E by opsonization with C in vitro. Their elimination was similarly monoexponential, except in one SLE patient in whom there was significant initial trapping (30.9%). A fraction of these complexes were released from E within the first minute, the percentage release being greatest in the patient with the lowest CR1 number (81.4%). E bearing immune complexes remained in the circulation and were not transiently sequestered in the liver or spleen. This is the first study of the clearance of soluble immune complexes in vivo in humans and shows that C and CR1 on E participate in immune complex clearance reactions, and that abnormal clearance can be detected in the form of rapid removal of immune complexes from the circulation.
- Copyright © 1988 by American Association of Immunologists