Defective Fc receptor-specific reticuloendothelial (RE) function has been reported in certain patients with a variety of immunologic and nonimmunologic diseases. The mechanism responsible for the impaired RE function is uncertain, but it could be caused by immune complexes that are present in many of these disorders. Alternatively, the impaired RE function could be a secondary effect of the high concentrations of monomeric IgG in the serum of these patients, since monomeric IgG can compete with complexed IgG for macrophage receptors in vitro. We studied the Fc-dependent RE function in 30 healthy control subjects and 27 patients using IgG-coated radiolabeled autologous red cells. There was a significant relationship between the concentration of IgG in the serum and the rate of clearance of antibody-sensitized cells (r = 0.51, P less than .01). Patients with hypergammaglobulinemia had the slowest Fc-dependent clearance, whereas those with hypogammaglobulinemia had the most rapid clearance. Immune complexes (Raji or polyethylene glycol) could not be shown to contribute to Fc-dependent RE clearance above the effect of the IgG in the serum. The unusually rapid clearance in a patient with hypogammaglobulinemia could be returned to normal by raising the concentration of IgG in the serum. This study supports the concept that serum (monomeric) IgG competes with immune complexed IgG for macrophage Fc receptors in vivo. The competition for Fc receptors determines the level of competence of Fc-dependent RE function. Based on the results of this study, one can predict that a number of disorders characterized by hypergammaglobulinemia also will have impaired Fc-dependent RE function.
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