The present studies suggest that polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN's) are essential for the development of cardiovascular lesions in serum sickness. In the absence of PMN's, necrotic vascular lesions were never seen and endothelial proliferation in arteries was inhibited. Zones of fibrinoid deposits did not occur. By contrast, at least two-thirds of the control animals exhibited endothelial proliferation, and half had necrosis of arterial walls, usually with fibrinoid deposits. In arterial lesions that involved the intima and media, the internal elastic lamina was disrupted. This was associated with accumulations of PMN's and was prevented when PMN's were depleted. The observations suggested that the elastic lamina acts as a barrier to the outward spread of inflammation in arteries and that it is an important substrate of PMN action. Although glomerulitis and proteinuria developed in PMN-depleted animals, no conclusions could be drawn concerning the pathogenic role of PMN's in renal lesions, since PMN depletion could not be effected before the onset of immune elimination without influencing the immune response itself.
Host complement (ß1C-globulin) was localized along with the antigen and rabbit gamma globulin in glomeruli and arteries showing lesions. In the glomeruli these deposits formed a granular lining along the area of the basement membrane. In arteries the fluorescent amorphous particles were in the intima and media of inflamed vessels.
The immune response to BSA and the incidence and severity of cardiovascular and renal lesions were enhanced by the intravenous administration of pooled rabbit antiserum to BSA given 18 hours before BSA antigen and by injecting endotoxin along with the BSA. These additions to the usual procedure of inducing serum sickness did not appear to change the quality of the disease.
In normal rabbits, the peak incidence of cardiovascular lesions was early in immune elimination of antigen, at a time when levels of circulating complexes was maximal. Conversely, the severest renal injury was noted several days later, at the completion of immune elimination.