A material which specifically inactivates mammalian C'4 was isolated from low ionic strength precipitates of nurse shark serum. The C'4 inactivator was not detected in whole serum. The conditions of its generation and its immunoelectrophoretic behavior seem to indicate that it is an enzymatically formed cleavage product of a precursor contained in whole shark serum. The inactivator was partially purified and characterized. It had an S-value of 3.3 (sucrose gradient) which was in agreement with its retardation on gel filtration, was stable between pH 5.0 and 10.0, had a half-life of 5 min at 56°C, pH 7.5, was inactivated by trypsin and was nontoxic. Its powerful anticomplementary activity in vitro and in vivo was solely due to the rapid inactivation of C'4; no other complement components were affected. No cofactor requirement was observed for the equally rapid inactivation of highly purified human and guinea pig C'4. The kinetics of C'4 inactivation and TAME hydrolysis, the greater anodic mobility of inactivated human C'4, and the influence of temperature on the rate of inactivation suggest that the inactivator is an enzyme and C'4 its substrate. This conclusion was supported by the more recent detection of a split product of C'4. Intravenous administration of the C'4 inactivator could prevent lethal Forssman shock and suppress the Arthus reaction in guinea pigs; it prolonged significantly the rejection time of renal xenografts but had no detectable effect on passive cutaneous anaphylaxis. Anaphylatoxin could be generated in C'4 depleted guinea pig serum with the cobra venom factor, but not with immune precipitates. The possible relationship between C'1 esterase and the C'4 inactivator is discussed on the basis of similarities and dissimilarities.

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