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      The complement system: History, pathways, cascade and inhibitors

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          Since its discovery in the 19th century, the complement system has developed into a clinically significant entity. The complement system has been implicated in a variety of clinical conditions, from autoimmune diseases to ischemia-reperfusion injury in transplantation. This article charts the historical progress of our understanding of the complement system and provides a synopsis on the activation pathways and its inherent regulators.

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          Complement. Second of two parts.

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            Complement: a unique innate immune sensor for danger signals.

            The complement (C) inflammatory cascade is part of the phylogenetically ancient innate immune response and is crucial to our natural ability to ward off infection. It has three critical physiologic activities: (i) defending against microbial infections by triggering the generation of a membranolytic complex (C5b9 complex) at the surface of the pathogen and C fragments (named opsonins, i.e., C1q, C3b and iC3b) which interact with C cell surface receptors (CR1, CR3 and CR4) to promote phagocytosis. Soluble C anaphylatoxins (C4a, C3a and C5a) greatly control the local pro-inflammatory response through the chemotaxis and activation of leukocytes; (ii) bridging innate and adaptive immunity (essentially through C receptor type 2, CR2, expressed by B cells) and (iii) disposing of immune complexes and the products of the inflammatory injury (i.e., other danger signals, e.g., toxic cell debris and apoptotic corpses) to ensure the protection and healing of the host. The regulatory mechanisms of C are finely balanced so that, on the one hand, the deposition of C is focused on the surface of invading microorganisms and, on the other hand, the deposition of C on normal cells is limited by several key C inhibitors (e.g., CD46, CD55 and CD59). Knowledge of the unique molecular and cellular innate immunological interactions that occur in the development and resolution of pathology should facilitate the design of effective therapeutic strategies to fight selectively against intruders.
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              Complement-dependent Clearance of Apoptotic Cells by Human Macrophages

              Apoptotic cells are rapidly engulfed by phagocytes, but the receptors and ligands responsible for this phenomenon are incompletely characterized. Previously described receptors on blood- derived macrophages have been characterized in the absence of serum and show a relatively low uptake of apoptotic cells. Addition of serum to the phagocytosis assays increased the uptake of apoptotic cells by more than threefold. The serum factors responsible for enhanced uptake were identified as complement components that required activation of both the classical pathway and alternative pathway amplification loop. Exposure of phosphatidylserine on the apoptotic cell surface was partially responsible for complement activation and resulted in coating the apoptotic cell surface with C3bi. In the presence of serum, the macrophage receptors for C3bi, CR3 (CD11b/CD18) and CR4 (CD11c/CD18), were significantly more efficient in the uptake of apoptotic cells compared with previously described receptors implicated in clearance. Complement activation is likely to be required for efficient uptake of apoptotic cells within the systemic circulation, and early component deficiencies could predispose to systemic autoimmunity by enhanced exposure to and/or aberrant deposition of apoptotic cells.

                Author and article information

                European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology
                Akadémiai Kiadó
                1 June 2012
                13 June 2012
                : 2
                : 2 ( otherID: K022535X4502 )
                : 103-111
                [ 1 ] University Hospital of Wales Cardiff Transplant Unit Cardiff UK
                [ 2 ] Cardiff University Institute of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, School of Medicine Cardiff UK
                [ 3 ] University Hospital of Wales Dept of Transplant Surgery Cardiff CF10 5NQ UK
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