The Complement Components

The proteins and glycoproteins that compose the complement system are synthesized mainly by liver hepatocytes, although significant amounts are also produced by blood monocytes, tissue macrophages, and epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. These components constitute 5% (by weight) of the serum globulin fraction. Most circulate in the serum in functionally inactive forms as proenzymes, or zymogens, which are inactive until proteolytic cleavage, which removes an inhibitory fragment and exposes the active site. The complement-reaction sequence starts with an enzyme cascade.

Complement components are designated by numerals (C1-C9), by letter symbols (e.g., factor D), or by trivial names (e.g., homologous restriction factor). Peptide fragments formed by activation of a component are denoted by small letters. In most cases, the smaller fragment resulting from cleavage of a component is designated "a" and the larger fragment designated "b" (e.g., C3a, C3b; note that C2 is an exception: C2a is the larger cleavage fragment). The larger fragments bind to the target near the site of activation, and the smaller fragments diffuse from the site and can initiate localized inflammatory responses by binding to specific receptors. The complement fragments interact with one another to form functional complexes. Those complexes that have enzymatic activity are designated by a bar over the number or symbol (e.g., C4b2a, C3bBb).

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

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