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Immunol Res. 2011 Oct;51(1):45-60. doi: 10.1007/s12026-011-8239-5.

Membrane attack by complement: the assembly and biology of terminal complement complexes.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, 655 W. Baltimore Street, BRB 12-033, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Complement system activation plays an important role in both innate and acquired immunity. Activation of the complement and the subsequent formation of C5b-9 channels (the membrane attack complex) on the cell membranes lead to cell death. However, when the number of channels assembled on the surface of nucleated cells is limited, sublytic C5b-9 can induce cell cycle progression by activating signal transduction pathways and transcription factors and inhibiting apoptosis. This induction by C5b-9 is dependent upon the activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt/FOXO1 and ERK1 pathways in a Gi protein-dependent manner. C5b-9 induces sequential activation of CDK4 and CDK2, enabling the G1/S-phase transition and cellular proliferation. In addition, it induces RGC-32, a novel gene that plays a role in cell cycle activation by interacting with Akt and the cyclin B1-CDC2 complex. C5b-9 also inhibits apoptosis by inducing the phosphorylation of Bad and blocking the activation of FLIP, caspase-8, and Bid cleavage. Thus, sublytic C5b-9 plays an important role in cell activation, proliferation, and differentiation, thereby contributing to the maintenance of cell and tissue homeostasis.

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