The role of the anaphylatoxins in health and disease

Mol Immunol. 2009 Sep;46(14):2753-66. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2009.04.027. Epub 2009 May 28.


The anaphylatoxin (AT) C3a, C5a and C5a-desArg are generally considered pro-inflammatory polypeptides generated after proteolytic cleavage of C3 and C5 in response to complement activation. Their well-appreciated effector functions include chemotaxis and activation of granulocytes, mast cells and macrophages. Recent evidence suggests that ATs are also generated locally within tissues by pathogen-, cell-, or contact system-derived proteases. This local generation of ATs is important for their pleiotropic biologic effects beyond inflammation. The ATs exert most of the biologic activities through ligation of three cognate receptors, i.e. the C3a receptor, the C5a receptor and the C5a receptor-like, C5L2. Here, we will discuss recent findings suggesting that ATs regulate cell apoptosis, lipid metabolism as well as innate and adaptive immune responses through their impact on antigen-presenting cells and T cells. As we will outline, such regulatory functions of ATs and their receptors play important roles in the pathogenesis of allergy, autoimmunity, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and infections with intracellular pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylatoxins / immunology*
  • Anaphylatoxins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Central Nervous System / immunology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Immunity, Active / immunology
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / immunology
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Sepsis / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Anaphylatoxins