Encapsulated and nonencapsulated cryptococci differ in their activation of the complement system. Incubation of nonencapsulated cryptococci in normal human serum (NHS) initiates both the classical and alternative pathways. This activation is characterized by an immediate, synchronous activation and binding of C3 to the yeast cells. Encapsulated cryptococci activate only the alternative pathway. This activation is characterized by a delayed (4 to 5 min), asynchronous activation and binding of C3. We examined the properties of antibodies in NHS that mediate immediate, synchronous binding of C3 to nonencapsulated cryptococci and zymosan. Adsorption of NHS with nonencapsulated cryptococci or zymosan produced a 4- to 6-min delay in the kinetics for activation and binding of C3 from the adsorbed serum to each respective yeast cell. This delay was similar to the delay observed when nonencapsulated cryptococci or zymosan was incubated in NHS in which the classical pathway was blocked by chelation of Ca2+. Proteins bound to serum-treated nonencapsulated cryptococci or zymosan were eluted and found to be predominantly immunoglobulin G (IgG), with lesser amounts of IgM. The eluted IgG could restore to adsorbed serum the rapid early kinetics for activation and binding of C3 characteristic of classical pathway initiation. Cross-adsorption showed that there was considerable cross-reactivity between the antibodies which restored rapid, early activation kinetics to NHS adsorbed with zymosan or nonencapsulated cryptococci. Encapsulated cryptococci were unable to adsorb the antibodies from NHS that mediated the rapid, early activation and binding of C3 to zymosan and nonencapsulated cryptococci. The latter results show that occlusion of antigenic sites at the cryptococcal cell wall is a newly recognized property that can be added to the repertoire of biological activities of the cryptococcal capsule
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