Background: Chondroitin sulfate (CS) is a glycosaminoglycan released by activated platelets.
Objective: Here we test the hypothesis that CS released by activated platelets can trigger complement activation in the fluid phase.
Methods and results: Thrombin receptor-activating peptide (TRAP)-6 was used to activate platelets in platelet-rich plasma and blood, anticoagulated with the thrombin inhibitor lepirudin. TRAP activation induced fluid-phase complement activation, as reflected by the generation of C3a and sC5b-9, which could be attenuated by the C3 inhibitor compstatin. Chondroitinase ABC treatment of supernatants from activated platelets totally inhibited the activation, indicating that platelet-derived CS had initiated the complement activation. Furthermore, addition of purified CS to plasma strongly triggered complement activation. C1q was identified as the recognition molecule, as it bound directly to CS, and CS-triggered complement activation could be restored in C1q-depleted serum by adding purified C1q. TRAP activation of whole blood increased the expression of CD11b on leukocytes and generation of leukocyte-platelet complexes. It was demonstrated that these leukocyte functions were dependent on C3 activation and signaling via C5a, as this expression could be inhibited by compstatin and by a C5aR antagonist.
Conclusions: We conclude that platelets trigger complement activation in the fluid phase by releasing CS, which leads to inflammatory signals mediated by C5a.