Targeting C5a: recent advances in drug discovery

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(2):217-36. doi: 10.2174/0929867053363379.


Activation of complement via the innate and adaptive immune system is vital to the body's defences in fighting infections. Unregulated complement activation is likely to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of several diseases including psoriasis, adult (acute) respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), bullous pemphigoid (BP), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury. The 74 amino acid peptide C5a is released after complement activation at sites of inflammation and is a potent chemoattractant for neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, leukocytes, monocytes and macrophages. Recombinant proteins and humanized anti-C5 antibodies have been recently developed for blocking specific proteins of the complement system bringing renewed attention towards complement inhibition. Pharmacological studies have been highlighting the complement fragment C5a as an interesting target for the management of complement mediated diseases. Specific inhibition of C5a biological activity could gain therapeutic benefit without affecting the protective immune response. In the last few years several peptide and non-peptide antagonists of C5a have been discovered and tested in relevant pharmacological models; the availability of orally active compounds is rapidly helping to delineate the precise role of C5a in immunoinflammatory disorders. Moreover, mutagenesis data for the C5a/C5a receptor (C5aR) couple make C5aR a valuable model for mechanistic studies of peptidergic G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). The aim of this review is to outline the recent advances in C5a inhibition, especially highlighting the value of a multidisciplinary integrated approach in drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Complement C5a / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Complement Inactivator Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Lung Diseases / metabolism
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Complement Inactivator Proteins
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
  • Complement C5a