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The characteristic finding of autoantibodies in patients with vasculitis has raised the possibility that these antibodies play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease. The expression of adhesion molecules (AM) on leucocytes and endothelial cells is believed to be integral to the development of vasculitis. We therefore investigated the effect of sera, positive for anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) or anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) from patients with vasculitis, on granulocyte expression of the adhesion molecule Mac-1 (CD11b). Autoantibody-positive sera from 15 out of 35 patients with vasculitis stimulated an up-regulation of Mac-1 on granulocytes. In most cases this effect was reproduced by the autoantibody-positive purified IgG fraction. Autoantibody-negative samples did not stimulate AM up-regulation. Of interest, preincubation of sera with purified antigens did not inhibit AM up-regulation by the autoantibody samples. Blocking the Fc receptors on granulocytes did result in a decrease of Mac-1 up-regulation, but this trend was not statistically significant. These results suggest that both ANCA and ANA have the capacity to up-regulate granulocyte AM expression, and that while Fc interaction with granulocyte Fc receptors is important, it is not the only mechanism whereby such autoantibodies active cells.