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J Biol Chem. 1978 Oct 10;253(19):6955-64.

Primary structural analysis of the polypeptide portion of human C5a anaphylatoxin. Polypeptide sequence determination and assignment of the oligosaccharide attachment site in C5a.


The C5a molecule is one of two spasmogenic fragments (i.e. C3a and C5a) released from serum components C3 and C5 during complement activation. These fragments are called anaphylatoxins because their ability to stimulate mast cell histamine release, smooth muscle contraction, and increased vascular permeability may lead to a fatal reaction resembling anaphylactic shock in experimental animals. In addition, the C5a molecule, which is a glycoprotein, is perhaps the most potent of all humoral chemoattractants for polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Most of the structural analyses in this study were performed on the desArg 74 form of human C5a (C5adesArg). C5adesArg represents a natural form of C5a that is recovered from activated serum when no inhibitors are added to block the action of serum carboxypeptidase. The complete primary structure of the human C5a polypeptide portion is reported here. A partial characterization of intact human C5a has been previously reported (Fernandez, H. N., and Hugli, T. E. (1976) J. Immunol. 117, 1688--1694). The polypeptide portion of C5a contains 74 amino acids, accounting for a molecular weight of 8,200 while the carbohydrate portion accounts for approximately 3,000. The carbohydrate portion of C5a exists as a single complex oligosaccharide unit attached to an asparagine at position 64. An unusual feature of the C5a molecule is its large content of half-cystine, which accounts for more than 9% of its total residues. Two repeating Cys sequences occur in the linear structure and 6 of the 7 half-cystines in C5a are located at nearly identical positions to those in the human C3a molecule. In fact, sequence similarities between C3a and C5a indicate their common genetic ancestry. The role of C5a and C5adesArg as chemotactic factors prompted comparisons of their structural features with those of the chemotactically active formyl-Met peptides (Schiffman E., Corcoran, B. A., and Wahl, S. M. (1975) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 72, 1059--1062). Removal of the COOH-terminal arginyl residue from C5a reduces chemotactic activity; therefore, the terminal portion of this molecule appears to play an active role in stimulating leukocyte migration. Hence the COOH-terminal sequence of C5a was examined for structural similarities to that of the formyl-Met peptides. Since methionine assumes a special functional importance in the formyl-Met peptides, attention is focused on the single methionyl residue in C5a. This methionyl residue, located near the COOH terminus of the molecule, may play an active role in the functional expression of C5a as a chemotactic factor. Although human and pig C3a show a close structural and functional relationship to C5a they lack the ability to excite leukotaxis, and this difference may correlate with the absence of a methionyl residue near the COOH terminus of C3a.

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