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Am J Pathol. 1994 Jun;144(6):1357-68.

Time course of complement activation and inhibitor expression after ischemic injury of rat myocardium.

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  • 1Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Activation of the complement (C) system has been documented in both experimental and clinical studies of myocardial infarction, but the exact time course and mechanisms leading to C activation have remained unclear. Our earlier postmortem study on human beings showed that formation of the membrane attack complex (MAC) of C was associated with loss of CD59 (protectin), an important sarcolemmal regulator of MAC, from the infarcted area. The recent discovery of a rat analogue of CD59 has now allowed the first experimental evaluation of the temporal and spatial relationship between C component deposition and loss of CD59 in acute myocardial infarction (AMI). After ligating the left coronary artery in rats the earliest sign of C activation, focal deposition of C3, was observed at 2 hours. Deposition of the early (C1, C3) and late pathway (C8, C9) components in the AMI lesions occurred at 3 hours. Glycophosphoinositol-anchored rat CD59 was expressed in the sarcolemmal membranes of normal cardiomyocytes. In Western blot analysis extracts of normal rat heart CD59 appeared as a band of 21 kd of molecular weight under nonreducing conditions. Loss of CD59 in the AMI lesions was observed in association with deposits of MAC from day one onward. Our results show that C activation universally accompanies AMI in vivo. It is initiated within 2 hours after coronary artery obstruction via deposition of C3, which may be due to generation of the alternative pathway C3 convertase in the ischemic area. Deposition of C1 and late C components also starts during the early hours (2 to 4 hours) after ischemia. Subsequent loss of the protective CD59 antigen may initiate postinjury clearance of the irreversibly damaged tissue.

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