C1q and systemic lupus erythematosus

Immunobiology. 1998 Aug;199(2):265-85. doi: 10.1016/S0171-2985(98)80032-6.


In this chapter we review the association between SLE and C1q. In the first part of the chapter we discuss the clinical associations of C1q deficiency, and tabulate the available information in the literature relating to C1q deficiency and autoimmune disease. Other clinical associations of C1q deficiency are then considered, and we mention briefly the association between other genetically determined complement deficiencies and lupus. In the review we explore the relationship between C1q consumption and lupus and we discuss the occurrence of low molecular weight (7S) C1q in lupus, which raises the possibility that increased C1q turnover in the disease may result in unbalanced chain synthesis of the molecule. Anti-C1q antibodies are also strongly associated with severe SLE affecting the kidney, and with hypocomplementaemic urticarial vasculitis, and these associations are also examined. We address the question of how C1q deficiency may cause SLE, discussing the possibility that this may be due to abnormalities of immune complex processing, which have been well characterised in a umber of different human models. There is clear evidence that immune complex processing is abnormal in patients with hypocomplementaemia, and this is compatible with the hypothesis that ineffective immune complex clearance could cause tissue injury, and this may in turn stimulate an autoantibody response. We have also considered the possibility that C1q-C1q receptor interactions are critical in the regulation of apoptosis, and we explore the hypothesis that dysregulation of apoptosis could explain important features in the development of autoimmune disease associated with C1q deficiency. An abnormally high rate of apoptosis, or defective clearance of apoptotic cells, could promote the accumulation of abnormal cellular products that might drive an autoimmune response. Anti-C1q antibodies have been described in a number of murine models of lupus, and these are also briefly discussed. We focus on the recently developed C1q "knockout" mice, which have been developed in our laboratory. Amongst the C1q deficient mice of a mixed genetic background high titres of antinuclear antibodies were detected in approximately half the animals, and around 25% of the mice, aged eight months had evidence of a glomerulonephritis with immune deposits. Large numbers of apoptotic bodies were also present in diseased glomeruli, and this supports the hypothesis that C1q may have a critical role to play in the physiological clearance of apoptotic cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / blood
  • Apoptosis
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Complement C1q / deficiency
  • Complement C1q / immunology
  • Complement C1q / physiology*
  • Complement Pathway, Classical
  • Complement System Proteins / deficiency
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Nephritis / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NZB
  • Mice, Knockout


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Autoantibodies
  • Complement C1q
  • Complement System Proteins