Complement C5a Functions as a Master Switch for the pH Balance in Neutrophils Exerting Fundamental Immunometabolic Effects

J Immunol. 2017 Jun 15;198(12):4846-4854. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1700393. Epub 2017 May 10.


During sepsis, excessive activation of the complement system with generation of the anaphylatoxin C5a results in profound disturbances in crucial neutrophil functions. Moreover, because neutrophil activity is highly dependent on intracellular pH (pHi), we propose a direct mechanistic link between complement activation and neutrophil pHi In this article, we demonstrate that in vitro exposure of human neutrophils to C5a significantly increased pHi by selective activation of the sodium/hydrogen exchanger. Upstream signaling of C5a-mediated intracellular alkalinization was dependent on C5aR1, intracellular calcium, protein kinase C, and calmodulin, and downstream signaling regulated the release of antibacterial myeloperoxidase and lactoferrin. Notably, the pH shift caused by C5a increased the glucose uptake and activated glycolytic flux in neutrophils, resulting in a significant release of lactate. Furthermore, C5a induced acidification of the extracellular micromilieu. In experimental murine sepsis, pHi of blood neutrophils was analogously alkalinized, which could be normalized by C5aR1 inhibition. In the clinical setting of sepsis, neutrophils from patients with septic shock likewise exhibited a significantly increased pHi These data suggest a novel role for the anaphylatoxin C5a as a master switch of the delicate pHi balance in neutrophils resulting in profound inflammatory and metabolic changes that contribute to hyperlactatemia during sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antacids / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calmodulin / metabolism
  • Complement Activation*
  • Complement C5a / immunology
  • Complement C5a / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactates / metabolism
  • Lactoferrin
  • Mice
  • Neutrophil Activation*
  • Neutrophils / chemistry
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C / immunology
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a / metabolism
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Sepsis / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antacids
  • C5ar1 protein, mouse
  • Calmodulin
  • Lactates
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
  • Complement C5a
  • Peroxidase
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Lactoferrin
  • Glucose
  • Calcium