Immune complex disease
Cole, Edward H. Department of Immunopathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, La Jolla, California.
Wilson, Curtis B. Department of Immunopathology, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, La Jolla, California.
Last reviewed:December 2020
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- Human immune complex disease
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Local or systemic tissue injury caused by the vascular deposition of products of antigen-antibody interactions, termed immune complexes. Immune complex formation with specific antibodies causes the inactivation of potentially dangerous antigenic substances and their elimination by phagocytic cells. However, there are harmful consequences when immune complexes deposit in tissues, inciting various mediators of inflammation and leading to injury and disease. When occurring in the extravascular fluids near the site of origin of the antigen, focal injury can occur, as exemplified by the Arthus reaction (an allergic reaction that results from the union of antigen and antibody in blood vessel walls) or such conditions as experimental immune thyroiditis. Systemic disease may occur when soluble antigens combine with antibodies in the vascular compartment, forming circulating immune complexes that are trapped nonspecifically in the vascular beds of various organs, and causing various clinical diseases, such as serum sickness or systemic lupus erythematosus with vasculitis and glomerulonephritis. The term immune complex disease usually signifies this systemic immune complex formation and vascular deposition (see illustration). In the widely used classification originated by Philip Gell and Robin Coombs, immune complex disease is referred to as type III immunopathology. See also: Antibody; Antigen; Antigen-antibody reaction; Connective tissue disease; Immunology; Immunopathology; Inflammation
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