sensitization and agglutination n.
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Sensitization and Agglutination. Antigen-Antibody reaction. Red cell Ag-Ab reaction can be detected by a number of techniques Most frequently used Hemolysis Occurs if the entire complement sequence is activated following Ag-Ab interaction Frequently stops at C3 – no lysis

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antigen antibody reaction
Antigen-Antibody reaction
  • Red cell Ag-Ab reaction can be detected by a number of techniques
  • Most frequently used
    • Hemolysis
      • Occurs if the entire complement sequence is activated following Ag-Ab interaction
      • Frequently stops at C3 – no lysis
      • In vitro, lysis of RBC’s rarely occurs.
    • Agglutination
  • Used as indicator of Ag-Ab reaction
  • Sensitization is whereby the Ab binds to Ag on the surface of the cell.
  • Sensitization does not always result in visible agglutination.
  • IgG is too small to span the distance between two red cells.
  • So IgG does not always result in visible agglutination.
  • Agglutination occurs when bound Ab links

adacent red cells forming clumps.

  • Red cells must be close enough for the Fab portion of Ab to bind and make bridges between cells.
  • IgM can easily induce agglutination.
agglutination reactions
Agglutination Reactions
  • Two Stage Process:
    • Stage 1 Sensitization:
      • attachment of Antibody to Antigen on the RBC membrane.
    • Stage 2 Lattice formation (agglutination):
      • formation of bridges between the sensitized red cells to form the lattice that constitutes agglutination.

Stage 1: Sensitization

This represents what occurs during stage one of agglutination.

  • Antibody molecules attach to their corresponding antigenic site (epitope) on the red blood cell membrane.
  • There is no visible clumping.
  • Red cells must be close enough for the Fab portion of Ab to bind and make bridges between cells

Stage 2: Lattice Formation

This represents what occurs during stage 2 of agglutination:

Antibody molecules crosslink RBCs forming a lattice that results in visible clumping or agglutination.

the zeta potential
The Zeta Potential
  • The electric repulsion between cells
  • This explains why cells do not agglutinate
  • Red cells have negative charge due to sialic acid molecules
When red cells are in solution containing free ions:
    • Cations are attracted to the –vely charged red cells
    • This forms a repelling cloud around the cell
The Zeta Potential can be varied by altering the charge on red cells
  • This can affect both sensitization and agglutination
  • Reducing the cloud density allow Abs to approach the cells, sensitize and then agglutinate them
2 introduction of bipolar albumin
2. Introduction of bipolar Albumin
  • Albumin dissipates some of the +ve charges around cells, reducing zeta potential


factors affecting the zeta potential1
Factors affecting the Zeta Potential
  • Increase the ionic strength of the medium
  • Increasing conc. of cations in medium cause
    • Increase in the density of ions around the red cell which cause
      • Size of cloud of cations is decreased
      • Zeta potential decreases
      • Red cell approach each other easily
      • Agglutination is facilitated
factors affecting the zeta potential2
Factors affecting the Zeta Potential
  • Decreasing the ionic strength of medium by using low ionic strength saline (LISS)
    • Decreasing conc. of cations in medium
    • Leads to decrease in density of ions around red cells
    • This increases sensitization
    • But decreases agglutination
factors affecting red cell sensitization
Factors affecting Red Cell Sensitization

1- Ratio of Ab to Ag

  • Sensitization occurs easily when at higher conc. of Ab
  • This can be done by increasing conc. of serum containing the Ab to conc. of cells
factors affecting red cell sensitization1
2-The pH of reaction mixture

At a pH below the isoelectric point, Abs have +ve charges

This makes it easier for the Ab to bind to the –vely charged red cells

Optimal pH for sensitization is 6.5 to 7.5 (Ab +vely charged)

Factors affecting Red Cell Sensitization
factors affecting red cell sensitization2
Factors affecting Red Cell Sensitization

3- Temperature

  • Ag- Ab reactions are exothermic
  • Therefore, Abs bind to a greater degree at lower temperature
  • But at lower temperatures, rate of reaction is reduced
  • To speed up reaction, tests are done at 37oC
Temperature can also affect Ag accessibility on red cells
    • Some IgM Abs bind best at 4oC (cold Abs)
  • Temperature can make conformational changes in the Ag
    • More Ag sites are exposed as the temperature is lowered allowing increased binding of Ab
  • Most naturally occurring cold Abs are of no clinical significance
    • Compatibility testing is done at 37oC



factors affecting red cell sensitization3
Factors affecting Red Cell Sensitization

4- Ionic strength of the medium

  • When RBCs are suspended in LISS the cloud of ions around the cell is less dense than in isotonic saline
  • Reduced conc. of cations surrounding RBCs allow +vely charged Abs easier to access Ag sites
  • Rate of sensitization increases
factors influencing rbcs agglutination
Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination
  • Agglutination occurs when RBCs are close enough allowing the Ab to bridge adjacent cells
factors influencing rbcs agglutination1
Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination

1- Ionic strength of Medium

    • Rate of sensitization increases in LISS


    • Agglutination is impaired because of increase in zeta potential
  • (Rule: reduced zeta potential facilitate agglutination)
factors influencing rbcs agglutination2
Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination

2-Presence of Albumin in medium

3- Enzyme treatment of red cells

  • Remove –vely charged sialic acid
  • & therefore reduce the zeta potential
  • This make cells come closer & agglutinate
  • But, certain Ags can be destroyed by enzymes (M, N, S, Fya, Fyb)

4- Temperature (previously discussed)

factors influencing rbcs agglutination3
5- Antigen Density

The greater the number of Ags on red cell, the greater the sensitization

Binding of +vely charged Abs to red cells lower the zeta potential

And therefore enhances agglutination

Increased Ag density also increases chance of bridging

Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination
factors influencing rbcs agglutination4
Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination

6- Ag Clustering and Mobility

  • Clustering facilitates agglutination by increasing likelihood of Ab binding at that site
  • Cluster of some Ags can occur after enzyme treatment of cells

Clustering of Ags

factors influencing rbcs agglutination5




Factors Influencing RBCs Agglutination

7- Antibody Characteristics

  • Ability of Ab to agglutinate cells depend on the Ig class
  • IgM has a wider span than IgG, and therefore more effective agglutination
  • IgG can be chemically modified to increase its span

300 Ao

250-300 Ao

150 Ao