Journal of theoretical biology. vol:131 issue:4 pages:441-59
The reverse hemolytic plaque assay enables the detection of secretion products from individual cells in cultures by visualizing the plaques formed after complement-mediated hemolysis around the secreting cells. However, the precise quantitation of the amount of secretion remains problematic. In this study we propose a computation model for estimating the spreading of the secreted molecules, based on the underlying processes of diffusion and antigen adsorption by immobilized antibodies. The translational diffusion coefficient of rat prolactin at 37 degrees C, determined by laser light scattering, was 9.89 x 10(-7) cm2/s. The time-dependent concentration distribution around a constantly secreting cell in a flat quasi infinite layer, was derived from the diffusion equation, using an analytical approach based on Laplace transformation. The relations between plaque size, incubation time and secretion level were expressed as a function of the threshold concentration of secretion product that can be detected and the effective diffusion coefficient, taking antigen adsorption into account. We obtained very good agreement between observed and predicted results for plaque formation by dispersed prolactin secreting cells of 14-day-old female rat pituitaries. This study confirms the validity of the assumptions underlying the reverse hemolytic plaque assay, provided that the cell density is low, the incubation time is moderately long and the concentration of specific antiserum is sufficiently high.