It has been suggested that human neutrophils exposed to preformed immune complexes or activated complement fragments generate O2- anions in extracellular medium. In vivo studies have revealed that oxygen intermediates produced by immune complex-activated neutrophils play an important role in subsequent tissue damage. Since it is difficult to obtain direct evidence that O2- is released into plasma in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), we studied the capacities of their sera to stimulate O2- release by human neutrophils in vitro. Sera from patients with SLE significantly enhanced O2- generation by neutrophils compared to normal sera. The enhancing activity of serum in the induction of increased O2- generation correlated positively with the presence of serum immune complexes and negatively with serum complement levels. The enhancing factors were analyzed by serum fractionation on Sephadex G-200 gel filtration, and were concluded to be immune complexes of intermediate size containing an activated complement fragment.
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