Functional anatomy of complement Factor H

Elisavet Makou, Andrew P Herbert, Paul N Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Factor H (FH) is a soluble regulator of the proteolytic cascade at the core of the evolutionarily ancient vertebrate complement system. Although FH consists of a single chain of similar protein modules, it has a demanding job description. Its chief role is to prevent complement-mediated injury to healthy host cells and tissues. This entails recognition of molecular patterns on host surfaces combined with control of one of nature's most dangerous examples of a positive-feedback loop. In this way, FH modulates, where and when needed, an amplification process that otherwise exponentially escalates the production of the pro-inflammatory, pro-phagocytic, and pro-cytolytic cleavage products of complement proteins C3 and C5. Mutations and single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the FH gene and autoantibodies against FH predispose individuals to diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, dense-deposit disease, and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome. Moreover, deletions or variations of genes for FH-related proteins also influence the risk of disease. Numerous pathogens hijack FH and use it for self-defense. As reviewed herein, a molecular understanding of FH function is emerging. While its functional oligomeric status remains uncertain, progress has been achieved in characterizing its three-dimensional architecture and, to a lesser extent, its intermodular flexibility. Models are proposed, based on the reconciliation of older data with a wealth of recent evidence, in which a latent circulating form of FH is activated by its principal target, C3b tethered to a self-surface. Such models suggest hypotheses linking sequence variations to pathophysiology, but improved, more quantitative, functional assays and rigorous data analysis are required to test these ideas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemistry
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • peptides and proteins
  • genetics
  • crystal structure
  • molecules
  • crystal cleavage

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