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Mol Immunol. 2008 Mar;45(6):1693-702. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

Genetic analysis of complement C1s deficiency associated with systemic lupus erythematosus highlights alternative splicing of normal C1s gene.

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Departamento de Imunologia, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Lineu Prestes 1730, CEP 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


Deficiencies of complement proteins of the classical pathway are strongly associated with the development of autoimmune diseases. Deficiency of C1r has been observed to occur concomitantly with deficiency in C1s and 9 out of 15 reported cases presented systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Here, we describe a family in which all four children are deficient in C1s but only two of them developed SLE. Hemolytic activity mediated by the alternative and the lectin pathways were normal, but classical pathway activation was absent in all children's sera. C1s was undetectable, while in the parents' sera it was lower than in the normal controls. The levels of C1r observed in the siblings and parents sera were lower than in the control, while the concentrations of other complement proteins (C3, C4, MBL and MASP-2) were normal in all family members. Impairment of C1s synthesis was observed in the patients' fibroblasts when analyzed by confocal microscopy. We show that all four siblings are homozygous for a mutation at position 938 in exon 6 of the C1s cDNA that creates a premature stop codon. Our investigations led us to reveal the presence of previously uncharacterized splice variants of C1s mRNA transcripts in normal human cells. These variants are derived from the skipping of exon 3 and from the use of an alternative 3' splice site within intron 1 which increases the size of exon 2 by 87 nucleotides.

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