Activation of the first component of human complement (C1) in human sera can be readily detected in double immunodiffusion studies with anti-C1q, anti- C1r, and anti-C1s as it produces a characteristic pattern quite different from that of precursor C1. Native macromolecular C1 gives a continuous line of precipitation with antisera to C1q, C1r, and C1s in double diffusion studies. After activation of C1 by incubation of serum with complement activators, three major changes occurred in the Ouchterlony pattern. First, spurring of the C1s precipitin line over that of macromolecular C1, indicating release of C1s from C1, was observed with low doses of activator. Release of C1s was quantitated by single radial diffusion and shown to be complete with the highest activator dose examined. Second, C1q was released with larger activator doses as shown also by spurring of the precipitin line due to this component over the remaining macromolecular C1. Third, and most surprising, C1r antigenicity was progressively lost as the activator dose was increased and no C1r line remained with the highest dose of activator tested. This was not true with C1s as there was no change in the total C1s concentration in serum incubated with various activator doses.
These observations provide two approaches to the quantitation of C1 activation in human serum. First, C1r and C1s can be quantitated by single radial diffusion. A decrease in the C1r:C1s ratio correlates with activation. Second, C1s released by the activation can be quantitated by single radial diffusion if the agarose contains high concentrations of anti-C1q to confine C1, also containing C1s, to the area near the application well, and lesser concentrations of anti-C1s to permit free C1s to produce a measurable ring. The extent of release of C1s also correlates with activation.
These immunochemical techniques to quantitate C1 activation directly inserum do not require specialized reagents. It is hoped that they will be useful in screening pathological sera and in monitoring the status of the complement system in patients.