Letter from Manfred M. Mayer, Johns Hopkins University to Michael Heidelberger
Mayer here responds to Heidelberger's comments on the draft of an article by Mayer on the kinetics (the rate and process)
of hemolysis, the rupture of the membrane of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and the release of hemoglobin, caused, in Meyer's
experiments, by antibodies in the form of complement-dependent lysis (rupture). Complement, a complex system of over twenty
serum proteins, plays an essential enzymatic role in host defense mechanisms against invading organisms.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (115,153 Bytes)
1948-07-16 (July 16, 1948)
Mayer, Manfred M.
Johns Hopkins University
Reproduced with permission of Elinor Mayer.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Complement System Proteins
Antigens and Antibodies: Heidelberger and The Rise of Quantitative Immunochemistry, 1928-1954
Letter from Michael Heidelberger to Manfred M. Mayer, Johns Hopkins University (July 13, 1948)
Thank you very much for your suggestions and questions on the hemolysis paper.
In saying that "the velocity curves having catalytic appearances" I mean that we are dealing with a family of curves
which all tend to go toward the same maximum value. In the case of a precipitin curve this does not apply because each member
of a family of precipitin curves carried out with different amounts of antibody would reach a maximal level corresponding
to the amount of antibody employed and would therefore be stoichiometric just like the kinetic curves shown in the paper for
antibody excess and limited complement. In other words, the expression "catalytic appearance" refers to the entire
group of curves corresponding to different levels of antibody rather than the shape of any one curve.
In regard to your second question concerning the dissimilar kinetic behavior of antisera A and B I can't see how non-hemolytic
anti-body could block reactive sites because I think that a reactive site, by definition, is one which reacts with hemolytic
I am glad you called my attention to Brunius' va1ue for the number of antibody molecules required for the lysis of one
red cell, and I shall try to include a reference to him when I get the galley proof. It is perfectly true, of course, that
the older value of 500 molecules of antibody corresponds to a 30-45 minute level while ours of 50 corresponds to 440 minutes
of reaction time. But in the older work it was not realized, of course, that the hemolytic reaction in the presence of excess
complement keeps on progressing with time. For that matter, our value of 50 A isn't a maximal value either since the
reaction is not finished at 440 minutes. We have been at work during the last couple of months investigating various hemolytic
antisera in an attempt to discover reasons for their diverse ksuetic behavior. One factor which appears to play a role is
difference in the speed of interaction of antibody with red cells. If one allows that step to go to completion before starting
hemolysis by the addition of complement the kinetic curves are quite different. We are now attempting to obtain a clearer
picture of the kinetics of hemolysis proper by allowing the interaction of red cells and antibody to proceed to completion.
Under separate cover I am sending you a lantern slide of figure 9. If you would like to have any of the others just let me
Thanks very much for your invitation for dinner. We are planning to come to New York on August 11th. If it is all right with
you we could come and have dinner with you on Thursday evening, August 12th. We were fortunate in getting Isabel Morgan's
place in Woods Hole for the period of August 16th to September 8th, so we will be on our way to Woods Hole when we come to
I am very happy to hear of Charlie's appointment at Wisconsin, and should like to hear more about it when I see you. Best
regards from Elinor and myself.