Binding of immunoglobulins and complement fragments to targets of adaptive immune responses can be monitored using collections of arrayed antigens and is used to generate profiles of antibody binding and function. The collection of reliable data on these reactions on a large scale requires the establishment of criteria from sample collection through reaction conditions to normalization strategies. We characterized the detection of IgG, complement C3 and C4 under conditions that better resemble in vivo events than most serological assays and are also relevant for in vitro diagnostic purposes. Immune complex formation was modeled using nitrocellulose-based protein arrays and the effects of factors like anticoagulant use, serum dilution, time and bivalent cation concentrations were assessed. Blood samples from healthy controls (n=24) and patients with systemic autoimmune disease (n=60) were collected and correlations between classical laboratory tests and chip-based reference proteins were evaluated to optimize normalization schemes. Best signal-to-noise ratio and acceptable masking of IgG by complement C3 fragments was achieved at modest, five to ten-fold serum dilutions. C3 binding to captured human IgG was found to correlate best with serum C3 concentrations and C3 activity and is therefore an ideal reference feature for normalization of biological and methodological variations in complement activity and detection.
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