Prospective analysis of C1 dissociation and complement activation in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Clin Exp Rheumatol. 1995 Sep-Oct;13(5):573-80.


Objective: To evaluate the results of complement analysis for assessment of disease activity and severity, and prediction of flares in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Methods: Patients with mild extra-renal flares, severe extra-renal flares or flares of lupus glomerulonephritis were followed for eight months, with investigations being performed every second month. Findings in initial samples four months before the flares were compared with findings in a control group with stable disease. C-reactive protein, and circulating C1q, C4 and C3 were determined together with two types of complexes containing C1 inhibitor (C1 INH), C1 INH-C1r-C1s and C1 INH-C1r-C1s-C1 INH, and the C3 breakdown product C3d.

Results: Enhanced formation of C1 INH-C1r-C1s appeared to be a marker of low specificity and was mainly seen in patients with extra-renal disease. Concentrations of C1 INH-C1r-C1s-C1 INH, C3d, C1q and C3 clearly varied according to disease activity in patients with severe disease. Interestingly, high C1 INH-C1r-C1s-C1 INH values were found four months before the flares in all but one patient with lupus glomerulonephritis. Assessment of the relative predictivity for a subsequent flare indicated low C1q to be the most reliable marker, the predictivity of the complexes being: low C1q > high C1 INH-C1r-C1s-C1 INH > low C3 > high C3d > low C4.

Conclusion: The importance of C1q and C1-related events in SLE may be underestimated. In addition, our results demonstrate the relevance of serial complement analysis for the assessment of disease activity and severity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Complement Activation / physiology*
  • Complement C1q / metabolism*
  • Complement C3 / metabolism
  • Complement C4 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Complement C3
  • Complement C4
  • Complement C1q
  • C-Reactive Protein