Complement emerges as a masterful regulator of CNS homeostasis, neural synaptic plasticity and cognitive function

Exp Neurol. 2014 Nov;261:469-74. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.06.019. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


Growing evidence points to a previously elusive role of complement-modulated pathways in CNS development, neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Distinct complement effectors appear to play a multifaceted role in brain homeostasis by regulating synaptic pruning in the retinogeniculate system and sculpting functional neural circuits both in the developing and adult mammalian brain. A recent study by Perez-Alcazar et al. (2014) provides novel insights into this intricate interplay between complement and the dynamically regulated brain synaptic circuitry, by reporting that mice deficient in C3 exhibit enhanced hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and cognitive performance. This behavioral pattern is associated with an impact of C3 on the functional capacity of glutamatergic synapses, supporting a crucial role for complement in excitatory synapse elimination in the hippocampus. These findings add a fresh twist to this rapidly evolving research field, suggesting that discrete complement components may differentially modulate synaptic connectivity by wiring up with diverse neural effectors in different regions of the brain. The emerging role of complement in synaptogenesis and neural network plasticity opens new conceptual avenues for considering complement interception as a potential therapeutic modality for ameliorating progressive cognitive impairment in age-related, debilitating brain diseases with a prominent inflammatory signature.

Keywords: Complement; Hippocampal activity; Microglia; Neural plasticity; Neurogenesis; Synaptic remodeling.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*


  • Complement System Proteins