Complement activation by necrotic cells in normal plasma environment compares to that by late apoptotic cells and involves predominantly IgM

Eur J Immunol. 2004 Sep;34(9):2609-19. doi: 10.1002/eji.200425045.


Necrotic cells are generally considered to stimulate inflammation, whereas apoptotic cells should not. However, apoptotic cells have pro-inflammatory properties since they can activate complement. To what extent this activation compares to that by necrotic cells is not known. We compared complement activation by necrotic cells and apoptotic cells in plasma. Jurkat cells were made apoptotic or necrotic by incubation with etoposide or by heat shock, respectively. Cells incubated in recalcified plasma were tested for C3 and C4 fixation and fluid phase generation of complement activation products. Fixation of C3 and C4 to necrotic cells occurred mainly via the classical pathway, independent from the method of necrosis induction and the cell type. Depletion of IgM from plasma almost completely abrogated complement fixation by necrotic cells, which was restored by supplementation with purified IgM. Complement activation by late apoptotic cells was comparable to that by necrotic cells regarding the extent and dependence on IgM. Moreover, incubation of plasma with necrotic or late apoptotic cells led to the generation of comparable amounts of complement activation products. These results indicate that late apoptotic and necrotic cells employ similar complement activation mechanisms in the plasma environment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • C-Reactive Protein / physiology
  • Complement Activation*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / physiology*
  • Necrosis


  • Immunoglobulin M
  • C-Reactive Protein