Sub-lethal concentrations of activated complement increase rat lymphocyte glutamine utilization and oxidation while lethal concentrations cause death by a mechanism involving ATP depletion

Cell Biochem Funct. 2002 Sep;20(3):183-90. doi: 10.1002/cbf.943.


Nucleated cells are more resistant to complement-mediated cell death than anucleated cells such as erythrocytes. There are few reports concerning the metabolic response of nucleated cells subjected to sub-lethal complement attack. It is possible that the rate of utilization of specific metabolic fuels by the cell is increased to enhance cell defence. We have measured the maximum activity of hexokinase, citrate synthase, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase and glutaminase in rat mesenteric lymphocytes exposed to sub-lethal concentrations of activated complement (present in zymosan-activated serum, ZAS). These enzymes were carefully selected as they indicate changes of flux in glycolysis, TCA cycle, pentose phosphate pathway and glutaminolysis, respectively. The only enzyme activity to change on exposure of lymphocytes to ZAS was glutaminase, which was enhanced approximately by two-fold. Although rates of both glutamine and glucose utilization were enhanced by exposure to ZAS, only the rate of oxidation of glutamine was increased. Complement kills anucleated cells by simple osmotic lysis. However, it is likely that some nucleated cells will display characteristics of an ordered death mechanism and we have demonstrated that the concentration of lymphocyte ATP is dramatically decreased by activated complement. Nevertheless, the extent of cell death could be significantly reduced by the addition of inhibitors of the nuclear enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). We conclude that glutamine metabolism is not only important for lymphocyte proliferative responses but is also important for cell defence from sub-lethal concentrations of activated complement. The rapid rate of complement-induced lymphocyte death reported here is suggested to be a consequence of over-activation of the nuclear enzyme PARP and ATP depletion.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Survival
  • Complement System Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Glutaminase / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Hexokinase / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Necrosis
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Glutamine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Complement System Proteins
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Hexokinase
  • Glutaminase
  • Glucose
  • Oxygen