C3 production was assayed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in cell-free supernatants harvested from thioglycollate-elicited macrophages exposed to a variety of macrophage stimulating and activating agents. Macrophage monolayers treated with the stimulating agents starch, glycogen, and zymosan secreted three- to four-fold less C3 (mean 12 ng/105 cells/ 12 hr) than macrophages exposed to lymphokines containing macrophage-activating factor (MAF) (mean C3 production 44 ng/105 cells/12 hr). The increased production of C3 in macrophages exposed to MAF parallels the ability of these macrophages to acquire tumoricidal capacity as monitored in an in vitro 72 hr tumor cell cytotoxicity assay using B16 melanoma cells. Macrophages previously rendered tumoricidal by exposure to MAF and which are refractory to further challenge by MAF following decay of their tumoricidal properties, do not produce C3 on rechallenge with MAF. Exposure of refractory macrophages to liposome-encapsulated MAF overcomes the refractory state and induces re-expression of the tumoricidal phenotype and C3 production. We conclude that quantitative detection of macrophage-generated C3 antigen provides a useful biochemical marker for monitoring the acquisition of tumoricidal properties in macrophages exposed to MAF and offers a sensitive assay for screening novel agents that activate macrophages via mechanisms similar to MAF.
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