Killing of Neisseria meningitidis by human neutrophils: implications for normal and complement-deficient individuals

J Infect Dis. 1987 Jun;155(6):1266-75. doi: 10.1093/infdis/155.6.1266.


The contributions of complement-dependent phagocytosis and serum bactericidal activity (SBA) to the killing of 62 strains of meningococci were examined by using C8-depleted or pooled human serum (PHS). The complement-dependent nature of killing by neutrophils was confirmed by restoring survival to control values by using heated serum. Serogroups B and 29E, but not A, C, Y, and W135, were ingested and killed by neutrophils in C8-depleted PHS (PHS-C8Dep; 41.7% +/- 7.3% and 60.5% +/- 17.8% vs. greater than or equal to 100% survival, respectively, at 30 min). Group B meningococci were resistant to complement-mediated SBA, whereas group Y were susceptible. Deposition of C3 on serogroups B and Y was similar (28.5 +/- 2.9 vs. 23.5 +/- 2.7 C3 fluorescence units; P greater than .05); however, susceptibility to complement-dependent phagocytosis and complement-mediated SBA of serogroups B and Y did not correlate. We also examined meningococcal phagocytosis by using serum from a C8-deficient patient. In contrast to PHS-C8Dep, this serum supported rapid phagocytic killing of serogroups A, C, Y, and W135 meningococci. This finding suggests that vaccinating individuals deficient in late-complement components may shift the burden of host defense from SBA to phagocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Bactericidal Activity*
  • Complement Activation
  • Complement C3 / metabolism
  • Complement C8 / deficiency
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neisseria meningitidis / immunology*
  • Neisseria meningitidis / ultrastructure
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / microbiology
  • Neutrophils / ultrastructure
  • Phagocytosis*


  • Complement C3
  • Complement C8
  • Complement System Proteins