It is known that polycations bind to and neutralize glomerular polyanions. Here we examine the effect of the polycation polyethyleneimine (PEI) on glomerular deposition of preformed immune complexes. Bovine serum albumin (BSA)-anti-BSA immune complexes made in 40 times antigen excess were administered following intravenous injection of PEI. Glomerular localization of immune deposits was assessed by quantitative immunofluorescence and electron microscopy and compared to controls receiving diluent without PEI followed by the same dose in immune complexes. In rats receiving PEI, deposits were localized within the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) of all peripheral capillary walls and in the mesangium. In controls, deposits localized exclusively within the mesangium in smaller amounts than after PEI. Thus, neutralization of glomerular polyanion by a circulating polycation enhances the deposition and alters the distribution of immune complexes in glomeruli.

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