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Immunobiology. 2010 May;215(5):395-405. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2009.05.010. Epub 2009 Jul 7.

Specific inhibition of the classical complement pathway with an engineered single-chain Fv to C1q globular heads decreases complement activation by apoptotic cells.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29464, USA.


Apoptotic cells are potent complement activators; and proposed mechanisms include IgM-mediated classical pathway activation, C-reactive protein (CRP)-mediated classical pathway activation, and IgM-mediated lectin pathway activation. While complement activation is beneficial in clearing apoptotic cells, the resulting complement-mediated inflammation may extend damage to the surrounding cells and tissues, as observed in ischemia/reperfusion injury. We previously engineered and characterized a single-chain Fv against C1q globular heads (scFv(QuVHVL)) that blocked C1q binding to immobilized IgG and to IgG-sensitized cells, and thereby inhibited IgG-mediated classical pathway activation [Hwang H.Y., Duvall M.R., Tomlinson S., Boackle R.J., 2008. Highly specific inhibition of C1q globular-head binding to human IgG: a novel approach to control and regulate the classical complement pathway using an engineered single-chain antibody variable fragment. Molecular Immunology 45, 2570-2580]. In the present study, this scFv(QuVHVL) was examined for its ability to restrict complement deposition on apoptotic cells in the presence of fresh normal human serum (NHS). Interestingly, the addition of scFv(QuVHVL) to NHS decreased C1-mediated C4b deposition on apoptotic cells by 60% as compared to appropriate buffer-treated control serum. By inhibiting initiation of the early complement components, the subsequent C3b and membrane attack complex depositions were inhibited by 70%. Apoptotic cells may acquire serum CRP, a known classical complement pathway activator. It was observed that scFv(QuVHVL) blocked C1 binding to CRP and blocked CRP-mediated classical pathway activation using an ELISA format. However, under the experimental conditions used, the addition of exogenous CRP to apoptotic cells did not further increase the levels of C4b, C3b, or MAC deposition significantly, suggesting predominance by other activation mechanisms, such as antibody-C1-mediated complement activation. In summary, the results indicated that C1-mediated classical pathway activation was a highly significant mechanism for complement activation by apoptotic cells. In the future, specific inhibition of classical complement pathway activation by a humanized form of scFv(QuVHVL) may be useful in reducing inadvertent damage to healthy bystander tissue in a variety of acute, complement-mediated inflammatory conditions, including ischemia/reperfusion injury.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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