Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Coating of Red Blood Cells with Antigenic Substances


COATING of red blood cells with antigenic substances is used for titration of antibodies because the blood cells are a stable and uniform vehicle for the antigens1–3. In our experiments red blood cells of sheep were first treated with tannic acid (1:20,000 in saline, pH 7.2) to stabilize them. If the solution is stronger, spontaneous agglutination takes place. The protein (bovine γ-globulin) was coated on the cell at a pH 6.4. The cells were lysed in distilled water. The cell walls were then shadowed with gold-palladium, and studied in a Siemens Elmiskop I. Fig. 1 shows an untreated cell wall. The surface is fairly smooth. After treatment with tannic acid the surface becomes rougher (Fig. 2). Coating with protein produces a mottled appearance, and the outlines of the shadow of the edge of the cell wall are somewhat diffuse (Fig. 3). It is difficult to explain these morphological changes in terms of physical and chemical processes, especially as the arrangement of the molecules on the cell surface is not fully understood. Tannic acid acts presumably as a fixative like formalin and the micrographs show that a change has taken place on a sub-microscopic scale. It is possible that the protein adheres more readily to the rough surface. The roughening of the surface may also explain why a stronger solution of tannic acid produces agglutination of the cells. Judging by the electron micrographs it appears that the protein covers the cell wall in shapeless masses, which produce the mottled appearance.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Boyden, S. V., J. Exp. Med., 93, 107 (1951).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Stavitzky, A. B., J. Immunol., 72, 360 (1954).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ingraham, J. S., Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med., 99, 452 (1958).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

DEUTSCH, K. Coating of Red Blood Cells with Antigenic Substances. Nature 184, 278–279 (1959).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing