Classical complement pathway activation on nucleated cells: Role of factor H in the control of deposited C3b

Markus W. Ollert*, Kerstin David, Reinhard Bredehorst, Carl Wilhelm Vogel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The restriction of alternative complement pathway activation in fluid phase or on nonactivator surfaces has been described as the major physiologic function of the complement regulatory protein factor H. In this study, we provide evidence that factor H is also a restriction factor of classical pathway activation on the surface of nucleated cells. We found that C3b was rapidly converted to inactivated C3b (iC3b) on human SK-MEL-93-2 melanoma cells after classical pathway activation with the murine monoclonal IgG3 Ab R24 directed against the disialoganglioside surface Ag G(D3). The SK-MEL-93- 2 cells are nonactivators of the alternative pathway and express neither CR1 (CD35) nor the C3b-cleaving protease p65. The cells are further characterized by the expression of only moderate amounts of DAF (CD55) and approximately 5 x 103 MCP (CD46) molecules/cell. FACS analysis and direct quantitation using [125I]factor H revealed high level binding of factor H to the melanoma cells (5.6 x 106 molecules/cell) during classical pathway activation. The binding of factor H could be inhibited under conditions that inactivate the classical complement pathway (EGTA and heat treatment), but not by factor B depletion of the serum, demonstrating that classical pathway activation was responsible for factor H binding. Treatment of factor B-depleted serum with neutralizing concentrations of polyclonal anti-factor H resulted in the prolonged presence of intact C3b on the cells and a significantly reduced generation of iC3b. The increased amount of C3b on these cells correlated with a 2.65-fold greater rate of cell death. In contrast, the increase in cell death effected by neutralizing concentrations of anti-CD46 or anti-CD55 Ab was only 0.13- or 0.35-fold, respectively. In addition, the supplementation of serum with purified factor H decreased the extent of lysis of the cells. Collectively, these data provide experimental evidence that factor H, through its cofactor activity for C3b degradation, is involved in the restriction of the classical pathway of complement on the surface of nucleated cells, a function that to date has been exclusively attributed to the membrane regulatory proteins CD35 and CD46.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4955-4962
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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