Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Enrique E. Ecker, Western Reserve University
In this letter, Heidelberger proposed a uniform terminology for the young field of complement research, a field Heidelberger
helped found during the late 1930s and early 1940s by proving that complement was made up of a group of specific chemical
substances that could be isolated in the laboratory. Subsequent research has shown that complement is a complex system of
over twenty serum proteins that after activation play an essential enzymatic role in host defense mechanisms against invading
microorganisms, namely in the promotion of inflammation, phagocytosis (the engulfing of invading organisms by immune cells),
and lysis (the breaking up of such organisms).
Number of Image Pages:
1 (80,862 Bytes)
1941-04-03 (April 3, 1941)
Ecker, Enrique E.
[Western Reserve University. Institute of Pathology]
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Complement System Proteins
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Enrique E. Ecker, Western Reserve University to Michael Heidelberger (April 5, 1941)
As a result of conversation with you and Pillemer, it is evident that we are in a position to dictate complement nomenclature,
Sherman Act or no Sherman Act. We have been mulling over things since your stimulating paper was given and are inclined to
agree with Pillemer's proposal to use C' as a symbol for complement, C to be reserved for bacterial somatic specific
Carbohydrates and S for Soluble Specific Substance, or capsular polysaccharides.
Then erstwhile "midpiece" = C'1
" "endpiece" = C'2
3" component = C'3
and 4" " = C'4
Inactivated complement = iC', small i being less easy to confuse with Roman I.
Inactivated "midpiece" = iC'1
" "endpiece" = iC'2, etc
What I have called complement combining component (or components)", or Cm, would then be C'1, C'1, '4, C'4,1
depending on the outcome of your further studies.
I am particularly anxious to come to an agreement on this because I would like to recall the two quantitative papers I now
have in press before they reach the printer, in order to make the above changes in lettering and put in a footnote saying
it is in agreement with your group. In the normal course of events the papers should be finished with the editorial mill
in a few days. Then if, in your papers, the same terminology is used, it should be comprehensible to all and soon become
established. So please let me know as soon as possible.
You and Pillemer contributed greatly to the success of the Conference and it was fine to see you again, too.
Hoping the work will prosper, and with cordial greetings,