The complement system: An evolution in progress

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The complement system, which consists of three independent but interacting pathways, constitutes a powerful arm of innate immunity. Its major function is to recognize and destroy pathogenic microorganisms as well as eliminate modified self-antigens. Although it is a fine-tuned system with innate capacity to discriminate self from non-self as well as danger from non-danger signals, an unwarranted activation can nonetheless occur and cause tissue destruction. To prevent such activation, specific regulators present both in plasma and on the cell surface tightly control it. Data accumulated over the past four decades have also shown that the complement system is capable of not only cross-talk with the activation cascades of plasma--i.e. blood coagulation, contact activation, and the kinin/kallikrein system--but also serving as a bridge between innate and adaptive immunity. It is for these reasons that the various activation steps of the complement system have been recently targeted for therapy to treat diseases in which the role of complement is beyond doubt. This trend will certainly continue for years to come, especially as novel concepts guiding the field into areas never contemplated before are continuing to be discovered.

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Ghebrehiwet, B. (2016). The complement system: An evolution in progress. F1000Research. Faculty of 1000 Ltd.

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