Complement in immune and inflammatory disorders: pathophysiological mechanisms

J Immunol. 2013 Apr 15;190(8):3831-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1203487.


Although acute or chronic inflammation is a common component of many clinical disorders, the underlying processes can be highly distinct. In recent years, the complement system has been associated with a growing number of immunological and inflammatory conditions that include degenerative diseases, cancer, and transplant rejection. It becomes evident that excessive activation or insufficient control of complement activation on host cells can cause an immune imbalance that may fuel a vicious cycle between complement, inflammatory cells, and tissue damage that exacerbates clinical complications. Although the exact involvement of complement needs to be carefully investigated for each disease, therapeutic modulation of complement activity emerges as an attractive target for upstream inhibition of inflammatory processes. This review provides an update about the functional and collaborative capabilities of complement, highlights major disease areas with known complement contribution, and indicates the potential for complement as a focal point in immunomodulatory strategies for treating inflammatory diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Immune System Diseases / pathology
  • Immune System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Infections / immunology
  • Infections / microbiology
  • Infections / virology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*


  • Complement System Proteins