Alternative complement pathway activity in mouse peritoneal fluid was determined by a sensitive microtiter assay with rabbit erythrocytes as target cells and cobra venom factor as the inducer of bystander hemolysis. The intra- and interstrain variations in five mouse strains were 30% and, maximally, 64%, respectively. No activity was detected in genetically C5-deficient mice. In C5-sufficient mice, intraperitoneal injection of heat-inactivated Listeria monocytogenes resulted in a 250% increase in local complement activity within 30 min. This effect was reversed by simultaneous injection of dextran sulfate but not heparin. These results are discussed in relation to the ability of listeriae to activate the mouse alternative complement pathway in vitro and the effectiveness of dextran sulfate and the failure of heparin in functioning as an adjuvant in the induction of a protective response in mice by a heat-inactivated listeria vaccine
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