Complement Evasion Mediated by Enhancement of Captured Factor H: Implications for Protection of Self-Surfaces from Complement

Andrew P Herbert, Elisavet Makou, Zhuo A Chen, Heather Kerr, Anna Richards, Juri Rappsilber, Paul N Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In an attempt to evade annihilation by the vertebrate complement system, many microbes capture factor H (FH), the key soluble complement-regulating protein in human plasma. However, FH is normally an active complement suppressor exclusively on self-surfaces and this selective action of FH is pivotal to self versus non-self discrimination by the complement system. We investigated whether the bacterially captured FH becomes functionally enhanced and, if so, how this is achieved at a structural level. We found, using site-directed and truncation mutagenesis, surface plasmon resonance, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and cross-linking and mass spectrometry, that the N-terminal domain of Streptococcus pneumoniae protein PspC (PspCN) not only binds FH extraordinarily tightly but also holds it in a previously uncharacterized conformation. Functional enhancement arises from exposure of a C-terminal cryptic second binding site in FH for C3b, the activation-specific fragment of the pivotal complement component, C3. This conformational change of FH doubles its affinity for C3b and increases 5-fold its ability to accelerate decay of the binary enzyme (C3bBb) responsible for converting C3 to C3b in an amplification loop. Despite not sharing critical FH-binding residues, PspCNs from D39 and Tigr4 S. pneumoniae exhibit similar FH-anchoring and enhancing properties. We propose that these bacterial proteins mimic molecular markers of self-surfaces, providing a compelling hypothesis for how FH prevents complement-mediated injury to host tissue while lacking efficacy on virtually all other surfaces. In hemolysis assays with 2-aminoethylisothiouronium bromide-treated erythrocytes that recapitulate paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, PspCN enhanced protection of cells by FH, suggesting a new paradigm for therapeutic complement suppression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4986-98
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Immunology
Issue number10
Early online date12 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2015


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