Unraveling the Complement System and its Mechanism of Action


Book Section

© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. It was observed in the late 1800s that microorganisms are rapidly destroyed by cell-free serum. Injection of Cholera vibrios into the peritoneum of immunized guinea pigs led to identification of heat-stable, specific antibody and heat labile, non-specific activity, present in all normal sera, that was lytic in the presence of the antibody. Ehrlich and Morgenroth presented their now famous side chain theory as an explanation for these findings. Specific receptors (side chains) were formed on cell membranes and were shed from the cells to circulate in the blood. These circulating receptors bound to antigen and activated the non-specific serum factor alexin or complement. Complement was found to be made up of multiple proteins. By the 1990s, three pathways of complement activation were identified, the proteins characterized and their function defined. Complement-related proinflammatory factors and regulatory proteins were identified, and abnormalities in complement regulation were found to be responsible for many diseases. The age of understanding of complement function is just beginning.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Frank, MM

Published Date

  • August 26, 2014

Book Title

  • Primary Immunodeficiency Disorders: A Historic and Scientific Perspective

Start / End Page

  • 217 - 228

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780124071797

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/B978-0-12-407179-7.00017-5

Citation Source

  • Scopus