Unstimulated mouse peritoneal macrophages attached to a glass substratum responded to activated human factor B (Bb) of the properdin system but not to native factor B with rapid spreading and a concomitant increase in their apparent surface area. Excellent correlation of the distribution of Bb protein and cell-spreading activity was found upon purification of Bb by ion-exchange and molecular seive chromatography and alkaline polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. 1.6 microgram of purified Bb was sufficient to induce spreading in 50% of 5 x 10(4) glass attached macrophages within 1-2 h at 37 degrees C. Treatment of Bb with di-isopropyl-fluorophosphate indicated that the intact catalytic site of the serine-proteinase Bb was required for the initiation of macrophage spreading. The involvement of factor B in the induction of rapid cell spreading could also be indirectly demonstrated in an autologous system in which F(ab')2 fragments of an antiserum to mouse B prevented mouse macrophages from spreading in response to complement-activated mouse serum. These experiments suggest a role for factor B and the alternative pathway of complement fixation in the localization of mononuclear phagocytes to areas of inflammation.

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