The membrane attack complex of complement: C5b-8 complex as accelerator of C9 polymerization

J. Tschopp, E. R. Podack, H. J. Muller-Eberhard

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Polymerization of C9 occurs spontaneously or can be induced by the tetramolecular complex C5b-8. Spontaneous C9 (0.15 mg/ml) polymerization required more than 3 days at 37° C. In the presence of C5b-8, C9 polymerization was complete within 10 min. The molar C9:C5b-8 ratio determined the extent of tubular poly C9 formation by C5b-8-bearing phospholipid vesicles. When this ratio was 9:1 or 12:1, 72% of complex-bound C9 was present as SDS resistant tubular poly C9 (M(r) = 1.1 x 106). At lower C9:C5b-8 ratios, poly C9 was bound primarily in nontubular form. Tubular poly C9, as part of C5b-9, could also be generated on rabbit erythrocytes by using whole human serum as a complement source. At limiting serum concentration (molar C9 to C8 ratio approximately 2), no SDS-resistant tubular poly C9 was detected. At high serum concentration or when using serum that was supplemented with C9, up to 40% of the C9 was SDS-resistant tubular poly C9, and the rest was poly C9, which was incompletely polymerized. It is suggested that the C5b-8 complex acts as an accelerator of C9 polymerization, and that its relative concentration to C9 determines the ultrastructure of the C5b-9 complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-499
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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