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J Clin Invest. 2009 Apr;119(4):788-801. doi: 10.1172/JCI36088. Epub 2009 Mar 2.

C3b deposition on human erythrocytes induces the formation of a membrane skeleton-linked protein complex.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Decay-accelerating factor (DAF, also known as CD55), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked (GPI-linked) plasma membrane protein, protects autologous cells from complement-mediated damage by inhibiting complement component 3 (C3) activation. An important physical property of GPI-anchored complement regulatory proteins such as DAF is their ability to translate laterally in the plasma membrane. Here, we used single-particle tracking and tether-pulling experiments to measure DAF lateral diffusion, lateral confinement, and membrane skeletal associations in human erythrocyte membranes. In native membranes, most DAF molecules exhibited Brownian lateral diffusion. Fluid-phase complement activation caused deposition of C3b, one of the products of C3 cleavage, onto erythrocyte glycophorin A (GPA). We then determined that DAF, C3b, GPA, and band 3 molecules were laterally immobilized in the membranes of complement-treated cells, and GPA was physically associated with the membrane skeleton. Mass spectrometry analysis further showed that band 3, alpha-spectrin, beta-spectrin, and ankyrin were present in a complex with C3b and GPA in complement-treated cells. C3b deposition was also associated with a substantial increase in erythrocyte membrane stiffness and/or viscosity. We therefore suggest that complement activation stimulates the formation of a membrane skeleton-linked DAF-C3b-GPA-band 3 complex on the erythrocyte surface. This complex may promote the removal of senescent erythrocytes from the circulation.

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