Emerging evidence indicates that complement provides costimulatory signals for murine T cells but whether complement impacts human T cells remains unclear. We observed production of complement activation products C3a and C5a during in vitro cultures of human T cells responding to allogeneic dendritic cells (DC). Both partners expressed the receptors for C3a (C3aR) and C5a (C5aR) and C3aR- and C5aR-antagonists inhibited T cell proliferation. Recombinant C3a/C5a promoted CD4(+) T cell expansion, bypassed the inhibitory effects of CTLA4-Ig, and induced AKT phosphorylation, the latter biochemically linking C3aR/C5aR to known T cell signaling pathways. Lowering DC C3a/C5a production by siRNA knockdown of DC C3 reduced T cell alloresponses. Conversely downregulating DC expression of the complement regulatory protein decay-accelerating factor increased immune cell C3a/C5a and augmented T cell proliferation, identifying antigen presenting cells as the dominant complement source. Pharmacological C5aR blockade reduced graft versus host disease (GVHD) scores, prolonged survival, and inhibited T cell responses in NOD scid γc(null) mouse recipients of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, verifying that the mechanisms apply in vivo. Together our findings unequivocally document that immune cell-derived complement impacts human T cell immunity and provide the foundation for future studies targeting C3aR/C5aR as treatments of GVHD and organ transplant rejection in humans.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01363388.
Keywords: AKT; C3; C5; GVHD; T cells; complement; dendritic cells; transplant.
© Copyright 2013 The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.