Structural basis of the polymorphism of human complement components C4A and C4B: gene size, reactivity and antigenicity

EMBO J. 1986 Nov;5(11):2873-81.


The human complement components C4A and C4B are highly homologous proteins, but they show markedly different, class-specific, chemical reactivities. They also differ serologically in that C4A generally expresses the Rodgers (Rg) blood group antigens while C4B generally expresses the Chido (Ch) blood group antigens. C4A 1 and C4B 5 are exceptional variants which possess their class-specific chemical reactivities, but express essentially the reversed antigenicities. The genes encoding the typical Rg-positive C4A 3a and Ch-positive C4B 3 allotypes and the interesting variants C4A 1 and C4B 5 have been cloned. Characterization of the cloned DNA has revealed that the genes encoding the A 3a, A 1 and B 3 allotypes are 22 kb long, but that encoding B 5 is only 16 kb long. Comparison of derived amino acid sequences of the polymorphic C4d fragment has shown that C4A and C4B can be defined by only four isotypic amino acid differences at position 1101-1106. Over this region C4A has the sequence PCPVLD while C4B has the sequence LSPVIH, and this presumably is the cause of their different chemical reactivities. Moreover, the probable locations of the two Rg and the six Ch antigenic determinants have been deduced. Our structural data on the C4A and C4B polymorphism pattern suggests a gene conversion-like mechanism is operating in mixing the generally discrete serological phenotypes between C4A and C4B.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Complement C4 / genetics*
  • Complement C4 / immunology
  • Complement C4a
  • Complement C4b
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes
  • Epitopes / analysis
  • Genes*
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Species Specificity


  • Complement C4
  • Epitopes
  • HLA Antigens
  • Complement C4a
  • Complement C4b
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes