Studies designed to gain insight into the mechanism of action of the active component of antilymphocyte serum were carried out using an antibody eluate prepared from the IgG fraction of anti-lymphocyte serum by absorption and subsequent elution from thymocyte membrane. The resulting antibody eluate was labeled with radionuclide tracer to determine the fate of the antibody in vivo. The result indicated that anti-lymphocytic antibodies are eliminated from recipients extremely rapidly. The mechanism for this rapid clearance appears to depend upon the absorption of antibody molecules onto lymphocyte surfaces and the subsequent clearing and degradation of the antibody-lymphocyte complexes by the reticuloendothelial system.
Distribution studies confirm that the major site of antibody-lymphocyte interaction occurs in the periphery with relatively little penetration of antibody within lymphoid organs. Radioautographic studies showed that the pattern of localization within lymphoid and other organs is confined to rather specific areas. These observations are believed to offer strong support for the notion that anti-lymphocyte serum achieves its immunosuppressive effect by bringing about a selective ablation of the population of recirculating lymphocytes.