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J Clin Invest. 1979 Aug;64(2):428-33.

Complement lysis of human erythrocytes. Differeing susceptibility of two types of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria cells to C5b-9.


Although enhanced sensitivity of erythrocytes to complement-mediated lysis is a hallmark of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), subpopulations of erythrocytes in such patients vary significantly in this respect. One PNH erythrocyte subpopulation (termed type III) comprises exquisitely sensitive cells, whereas type II PNH erythrocytes are intermediate in complement sensitivity between PNH type III and normal human erythrocytes. Differences in the action of the terminal complement components that would account for the differing lytic behavior of types II and III PNH erythrocytes have been proposed but not directly demonstrated. The present studies, making use of carefully selected cases with pure populations of type II or type III erythrocytes, confirm a prior observation that antibody-coated PNH erythrocytes of both types II and III display comparably supranormal C3 binding in whole human serum. However, when lysis was induced by the isolated C5b-9 membrane attack mechanism, bypassing the requirement for C3 binding, only type III PNH cells exhibited greater than normal lysis. This finding suggests that type III PNH erythrocytes have an additional membrane abnormality not present in type II cells. Thus, the differing lytic behavior of these two cell types in whole serum may reflect the additive effects on type III cells of both exaggerated C3 binding and enhanced sensitivity to C5b-9, whereas the more moderate lysis of type II PNH cells may be determined mainly or entirely by the earlier-acting mechanism producing augmented C3 binding. The failure of guinea pig C8 and C9, as opposed to human C8 and C9, to reveal the true lytic sensitivity of PNH-III E in our earlier study is illustrated, and its implications briefly discussed.

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