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Clin Immunol. 2005 Jun;115(3):225-35.

Novel biological networks modulated by complement.

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Protein Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 401 Stellar-Chance Laboratories, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The almost complete deciphering of the human genome has paved the way for the application of new technology platforms in understanding the contribution of complex biological pathways to human pathophysiology and disease. In the post-genomic era, the concept of systems biology has gained significant momentum and biomedical research is now being conducted on an integrated and cross-disciplinary platform that pulls together its resources from diverse fields such as computational biology, bioinformatics, functional genomics, structural biology, and proteomics. In this perspective, the identity of established biologic systems is being re-examined in the light of novel findings that suggest novel associations between otherwise unrelated pathways and individual proteins. Complement exemplifies such a system that, transcending its innate immune identity, has forged functional associations with multiple pathways and networks in modulating basic biologic processes. In the present article, we provide a global overview of these unusual system associations of complement with the aid of a powerful and high-throughput bioinformatics platform. Using a novel approach called systems literature analysis that allows the rapid extraction of text-based associations between genes and pathways from the ever expanding scientific article database, we have selected a broad range of biologic processes modulated by complement proteins and have constructed an integrated map of complement-mediated networks that incorporates well over 85 diverse biologic pathways. Expanding the complement cascade beyond its approximately 35 designated components, we discuss protein-protein interactions involving novel ligands and associations with signaling cascades and cellular networks that affect both inflammatory and non-inflammatory processes. This integrated consideration of complement within a unified 'systems biology' framework underscores the concept that innate immunity goes well beyond the protection of 'self' extending links to critical developmental, homeostatic, and metabolic processes.

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