Alternative pathway activation of complement by cultured human proximal tubular epithelial cells

Kidney Int. 1994 Feb;45(2):451-60. doi: 10.1038/ki.1994.59.


Human proximal tubular epithelial cells (PTEC) incubated with normal human serum (NHS) were found to fix on their surface C3, properdin, terminal complement components and C5b-9 MAC neoantigen, but not C1q and C4, by immunofluorescence. Complement fixation was abrogated if PTEC were incubated with EDTA-treated NHS or C3-deficient human serum, but not with Mg EGTA-treated NHS or C1q-deficient human serum, showing the prevalent activation of the alternative pathway of complement. This event was followed by marked cytoskeleton alterations with disruption of the actin cortical network, redistribution of actin throughout the cytoplasm and formation of blebs, and by cell cytolysis. In addition, superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide production and chemiluminescence response were detected in consequence of MAC insertion on PTEC plasma membrane. The dependency on MAC of the observed biological effects of complement fixation on PTEC surface was shown by using sera selectively deficient of terminal components of complement (C6 or C8), and therefore unable to form the C5b-9 MAC, and by restoring the ability to form MAC after addition of purified C6 or C8. The possible pathogenetic relevance of these observations in tubulointerstitial injury occurring in patients with complementuria due to non-selective proteinuria, is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex / metabolism
  • Complement Pathway, Alternative*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / cytology
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen Peroxide