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Am J Pathol. Apr 1996; 148(4): 1139–1152.
PMCID: PMC1861510

Expression of complement membrane regulators membrane cofactor protein (CD46), decay accelerating factor (CD55), and protectin (CD59) in human malignant gliomas.


Gliomas are malignant brain tumors, which, despite recent progress in surgical and radiological treatment, still have a poor prognosis. Since gliomas apparently resist immunological clearance mechanisms, we became interested in examining bow gliomas resist killing by the human complement system. The resistance of human cells to complement-mediated damage is, in large part, mediated by specific inhibitors of complement:membrane cofactor protein (CD46), decay-accelerating factor (CD55), and protectin (CD59). In the present study we examined the expression of complement regulators in 14 human glioma tumors and in 7 glioma cell lines (U251, U87, HS683, U373, U138, U118, and H2). Protectin was found to be strongly expressed by all glioma tumors and cell lines. Northern blotting analysis demonstrated the typical pattern of four to five protectin mRNAs in the glioma cells. Except for blood vessels, the expression of decay-accelerating factor was weak or absent in the tumors in situ, whereas in the cell lines its expression varied, ranging from negative to intermediate. Membrane cofactor protein was moderately expressed by all the cell lines but only weakly in the tumors. Cell-killing experiments demonstrated that the glioma cell lines were exceptionally resistant to C-mediated lysis. Five of the seven cell lines (U373, HS683, U118, U138, and H2) resisted complement lysis under conditions where most other cell lines were sensitive to killing. Neutralization experiments using specific monoclonal antibodies indicated that protectin was functionally the most important complement regulator in the glioma cells. The killing of the U87 and U251 cells could be significantly increased by a blocking anti-protectin monoclonal antibody, whereas for the other cell lines only moderate or no response was observed. The H2 cell line resisted killing by all antibodies and by complement. These results show that protectin is the most important complement regulator on human glioma cells. The exceptional complement resistance of some glioma cell lines suggests that they may utilize other, hitherto less well characterized, mechanisms to resist complement killing.

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