Complement activation by the alternative pathway is modified in renal failure: the role of factor D

Clin Nephrol. 1989 Oct;32(4):185-93.


Factor D, an essential enzyme of the alternative pathway (AP) of complement, is eliminated by the kidney, and its plasma concentration increases 10-fold in end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The purpose of this study was to analyze the consequences of factor D accumulation. A number of in vitro assays were used to analyze AP activation in normal human serum (NHS), in normal serum supplemented with purified factor D to 10-fold its normal concentration (10 x D), and in sera of patients with ESRD. When compared with NHS, in 10 x D: 1) Spontaneous fluid-phase activation of complement at 37 degrees C was greatly increased as measured by C3 cleavage, 2) The lysis of rabbit erythrocytes, a function of the AP, was accelerated, 3) More C3 fragments bound to cuprophane membranes and to immune precipitates; both reactions were accompanied by the formation of more C5a, 4) Complement mediated solubilization of antigen-antibody precipitates was enhanced. Sera of patients with ESRD behaved similarly to 10 x D in all assays used, i.e., enhanced AP function, although complement activation measured in these assays varied widely from one individual to another. Thus, the elevated factor D concentration observed in renal failure might have important pathophysiological consequences, some of which could be detrimental (e.g., C5a produced during hemodialysis), while others might be beneficial, e.g., solubilization of immune precipitates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Complement Activating Enzymes
  • Complement C3 / immunology
  • Complement C3b / immunology
  • Complement C5a / immunology
  • Complement Factor D / analysis*
  • Complement Pathway, Alternative / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / immunology*
  • Middle Aged


  • Complement C3
  • Complement C3b
  • Complement C5a
  • Complement Activating Enzymes
  • CFD protein, human
  • Complement Factor D