Using affinity-purified 125I-F(ab')2 anti-human C3, we have investigated the ability of various leukemic cells to activate complement. Lymphocytes from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) activated the alternative pathway, but cells from patients with other forms of leukemia or normal lymphocytes did not do so. The amount of C3 deposited on the CLL cells was significantly higher in patients with organomegaly (i.e., splenomegaly and/or hepatomegaly). Activation of complement by CLL cells as assessed by C3 deposition on the membrane occurred both in vivo and in vitro and was not related to the N- acetylneuraminic acid content of the membrane.

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