A comparison of the properties of two classes, C4A and C4B, of the human complement component C4

EMBO J. 1984 Aug;3(8):1819-23.


A remarkable difference has been observed between the reactivity of the two forms of human complement component C4. C4B binds twice as effectively as C4A to antibody-coated red cells, but the reverse occurs with protein-antigen complexes. C4B reacts much more effectively with hydroxyl groups than C4A and this is reversed for reaction with amino groups in spite of the very small difference in amino acid sequence between the two forms of C4. No other differences in stability, activation or inactivation were observed. These findings emphasise the biological advantage of the duplication of the C4 gene in its reaction with a wide range of antigenic structures. The correlation of the presence of different forms of C4 with susceptibility to autoimmune diseases may be explicable by these big differences in binding reactivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Complement Activation
  • Complement C1 / metabolism
  • Complement C4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Complement C4 / metabolism*
  • Complement C4a
  • Complement C4b
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Methylamines / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens
  • Complement C1
  • Complement C4
  • Methylamines
  • Complement C4a
  • Complement C4b
  • methylamine
  • Glycerol
  • Glycine