The complement system in teleosts

Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2002 May;12(5):399-420. doi: 10.1006/fsim.2001.0408.


Complement, an important component of the innate immune system, is comprised of about 35 individual proteins. In mammals, activation of complement results in the generation of activated protein fragments that play a role in microbial killing, phagocytosis, inflammatory reactions, immune complex clearance, and antibody production. Fish appear to possess activation pathways similar to those in mammals, and the fish complement proteins identified thus far show many homologies to their mammalian counterparts. Because information about complement proteins, regulatory proteins, and complement receptors in fish is far from complete, it is unclear whether all the complement functions that have been identified in mammals also occur in fish. However, it has been clearly demonstrated that fish complement can lyse foreign cells and opsonise foreign organisms for destruction by phagocytes. There are also indications that complement fragments participate in inflammatory reactions. Fish possess multiple isoforms of several complement proteins, such as C3 and factor B. It has been hypothesised that the function of this diversity in complement proteins serves to expand their innate immune recognition capacity and response. Understanding the functions of complement in fish and the roles the individual proteins, including the various isoforms, play in host defence, is important not only for understanding the evolution of this system but also for the development of new strategies in fish health management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complement Activation*
  • Complement System Proteins / chemistry
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Fishes / immunology*
  • Hemolysis
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Complement / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Complement
  • Complement System Proteins