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J Biol Chem. 2012 Sep 28;287(40):33733-44. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Annexin A2 and A5 serve as new ligands for C1q on apoptotic cells.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine Malmö, Lund University, Medical Protein Chemistry, Malmö, Sweden.


C1q is the initiator of the classical complement pathway and opsonizes apoptotic cells to facilitate phagocytosis. Deficiency of C1q is the strongest known risk factor for development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which appears to be related to ensuing impaired clearance of apoptotic material. The objective of the current study was to investigate new ligands for C1q on the surface of apoptotic cells. We revealed that the two phospholipid-binding proteins annexin A2 and A5 are, beside DNA, significant C1q ligands. We furthermore, demonstrated that C1q binds directly to histones exposed on the surface of dying cells but we did not detect significant interaction with phosphatidylserine. The complement inhibitors C4b-binding protein and factor H also interact with dying cells, most likely to decrease complement activation beyond the level of C3 to allow noninflammatory clearance. Despite the fact that C4b-binding protein, factor H, and C1q share some ligands on dying cells, we showed that these three proteins did not compete with one another for binding to apoptotic cells. We additionally demonstrated that the way in which apoptosis is induced influenced both the degree of apoptosis and the binding of C1q. The knowledge, that annexin A2 and A5 act as ligands for C1q on apoptotic cells, sheds new light on the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases.

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