Evidence has accumulated indicating the existence of a second complement activation mechanism which is functionally analogous to C1, C2, and C4. The noncomplement protein C3PA, previously recognized through its ability to form a complex enzyme with a protein from cobra venom, appears to be the precursor of the C4,2 analogue. It is a thermolabile ß-globulin with a molecular weight of 80,000. When serum is treated with naturally occurring plant or bacterial polysaccharides, the C3PA is cleaved into at least two fragments, one having the electrophoretic mobility of a γ-globulin and a molecular weight of 60,000, and the other being an acidic peptide with a molecular weight of 20,000. The larger fragment has the ability to cleave C3 into C3a and C3b and is therefore called C3 activator. It arises from the action of an as yet unidentified serum enzyme upon the C3PA, which is tentatively called C3PA convertase. In addition to endotoxins, yeast cell walls, inulin, and agar, aggregates of immunoglobulins were found to be activating substances, including human IgA, guinea pig γ1, and duck antibody. Serum depleted of C3PA had reduced E. coli bactericidal and increased hemolytic activity. The relationship of the C3-activator system to experimental and clinical observations has been discussed.

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