MACROPHAGES are important in immunity on their own, in delayed-type hypersensitivity, in phagocytosis of immune complexes, and in the afferent limb of antibody responses. Evidence for the latter includes the increased immunogenicity of macrophage-processed antigen1, and the requirement for macrophages in antibody responses involving cooperation between T and B lymphocytes2. In addition, antibody titres can be increased or decreased by agents, such as adjuvants3 or colloidal carbon4, which probably act on macrophages. Changes in either quantity or quality (affinity) of antibody, or both, may occur: carbon5 reduces the affinity of mouse anti-protein antibody but does not affect quantity, whereas adjuvant6 increases both. Differences in macrophage activity could therefore be responsible for differences in antibody affinity between mouse strains7. Carbon clearance differs between strains5,8, and has been found to be loosely related to affinity5. We have used a new test of macrophages which shows differences of clearance function which relate closely to differences of antibody affinity.
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