Natural antibody and complement mediate neutralization of influenza virus in the absence of prior immunity

J Virol. 2007 Apr;81(7):3487-94. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02128-06. Epub 2007 Jan 3.


Early control of virus replication by the innate immune response is essential to allow time for the generation of a more effective adaptive immune response. As an important component of innate immunity, complement has been shown to be necessary for protection against numerous microbial infections. This study was undertaken to investigate the role of complement in neutralizing influenza virus. Results demonstrated that the classical pathway of complement mediated serum neutralization of influenza virus. Although nonimmune serum neutralized influenza virus, the mechanism of virus neutralization (VN) required antibody, as sera from RAG1-deficient mice lacked VN activity; moreover, purified natural immunoglobulin M (IgM) restored VN activity to antibody-deficient sera. The mechanism of VN by natural IgM and complement was associated with virion aggregation and coating of the viral hemagglutinin receptor; however, viral lysis did not significantly contribute to VN. Additionally, reconstitution of RAG1-deficient mice with natural IgM resulted in delayed morbidity during influenza virus infection. Collectively, these results provide evidence that natural IgM and the early components of the classical pathway of complement work in concert to neutralize influenza virus and that this interaction may have a significant impact on the course of influenza viral pneumonia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complement C5 / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology*
  • Influenza A virus / immunology*
  • Influenza A virus / metabolism
  • Influenza A virus / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / metabolism
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Survival Rate
  • Virion / metabolism


  • Complement C5
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • RAG-1 protein