Complement in urochordates: cloning and characterization of two C3-like genes in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis

Immunogenetics. 2002 Mar;53(12):1055-64. doi: 10.1007/s00251-001-0421-9. Epub 2002 Feb 8.


The recent identification of complement components in deuterostome invertebrates has indicated the presence of a complement system operating via an alternative pathway in echinoderms and tunicates and via a MBL-mediated pathway thus far identified only in tunicates. Here, we report the isolation of two C3-like genes, CiC3-1 and CiC3-2, from blood cell total RNA of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. The deduced amino acid sequences of both Ciona C3-like proteins exhibit a canonical processing site for alpha and beta chains, a thioester site with an associated catalytic histidine and a convertase cleavage site, thus showing an overall similarity to the other C3 molecules already characterized. Southern blotting analysis indicated that each gene is present as a single copy per haploid genome. In situ hybridization experiments showed that both CiC3-1 and CiC3-2 are expressed in one type of blood cell, the compartment cells. Two polyclonal antibodies, raised against two deduced peptide sequences in the alpha chain of CiC3-1 and CiC3-2, allowed the identification by Western blot of a single band in the blood serum, of about M(r)150,000. A phylogenetic tree, based on the alignment of CiC3-1 and CiC3-2 with molecules of the alpha(2)-macroglobulin superfamily, indicated that the Ciona C3s form a cluster with Halocynthia roretzi C3. The phylogenetic analysis also suggested that the duplication event from which the CiC3-1 and CiC3-2 genes originated occurred in the urochordate lineage after the separation of the Halocynthia and Ciona ancestor.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Ciona intestinalis / genetics*
  • Ciona intestinalis / immunology*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Complement C3 / genetics*
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • Complement C3
  • DNA, Complementary