Bacteria under stress by complement and coagulation

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2014 Nov;38(6):1146-71. doi: 10.1111/1574-6976.12080. Epub 2014 Sep 3.


The complement and coagulation systems are two related protein cascades in plasma that serve important roles in host defense and hemostasis, respectively. Complement activation on bacteria supports cellular immune responses and leads to direct killing of bacteria via assembly of the Membrane Attack Complex (MAC). Recent studies have indicated that the coagulation system also contributes to mammalian innate defense since coagulation factors can entrap bacteria inside clots and generate small antibacterial peptides. In this review, we will provide detailed insights into the molecular interplay between these protein cascades and bacteria. We take a closer look at how these pathways are activated on bacterial surfaces and discuss the mechanisms by which they directly cause stress to bacterial cells. The poorly understood mechanism for bacterial killing by the MAC will be reevaluated in light of recent structural insights. Finally, we highlight the strategies used by pathogenic bacteria to modulate these protein networks. Overall, these insights will contribute to a better understanding of the host defense roles of complement and coagulation against bacteria.

Keywords: bacteria; coagulation; complement; evasion; innate immunity; membrane attack complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Blood Coagulation / immunology*
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Complement System Proteins