Different aspects of the relationship between the HIV infection and the complement system were studied. 1. No significant differences were found between seronegative controls, asymptomatic, and symptomatic (ARC, AIDS) HIV-seropositive patients in the plasma levels of complement components C4, Bf, and C3. 2. Using sensitive ELISA assays, a significant increase was observed in the levels of protein-protein complexes which are formed at the activation of the classical (C1r-C1s-C1-INH) and alternative (C3b-Bb-F) pathways, indicating that both complement pathways are activated in the HIV disease. No significant differences were found, however, in the levels of these complexes between the groups of asymptomatic and symptomatic HIV-infected patients. 3. Artificial immune complexes of synthetic peptides representing some immunodominant epitopes of HIV envelope (gp120, and gp41) proteins, and human polyclonal anti-HIV IgG were found to weakly activate both the classical and alternative complement pathways. 4. An elevated percentage of the lymphocytes carrying a complement activation fragment, C3d, was detected in the blood of HIV seropositive patients as compared to the seronegative controls. No significant positive correlation was found between the percentage of these cells and that of any T cell subsets tested.
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