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Lookup NU author(s): Professor David KavanaghORCiD
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In this chapter, we examine the role of complement regulatory activity in atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These diseases are representative of two distinct types of complement-mediated injury, one being acute and self-limited, the other reflecting accumulation of chronic damage. Neither condition was previously thought to have a pathologic relationship to the immune system. However, alterations in complement regulatory protein genes have now been identified as major predisposing factors for the development of both diseases. In aHUS, heterozygous mutations leading to haploinsufficiency and function-altering polymorphisms in complement regulators have been identified, while in AMD, polymorphic haplotypes in complement genes are associated with development of disease. The basic premise is that a loss of function in a plasma or membrane inhibitor of the alternative complement pathway allows for excessive activation of complement on the endothelium of the kidney in aHUS and on retinal debris in AMD. These associations have much to teach us about the host's innate immune response to acute injury and to chronic debris deposition. We all experience cellular injury and, if we live long enough, will deposit debris in blood vessel walls (atherosclerosis leading to heart attacks and strokes), the brain (amyloid proteins leading to Alzheimer's disease), and retina (lipofuscin pigments leading to AMD). These are three common causes of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. The clinical, genetic, and immunopathologic understandings derived from the two examples of aHUS and AMD may illustrate what to anticipate in related conditions. They highlight how a powerful recognition and effector system, the alternative complement pathway, reacts to altered self. A response to acute injury or chronic debris accumulation must be appropriately balanced. In either case, too much activation or too little regulation promotes undesirable tissue damage and human disease.
Author(s): Richards A, Kavanagh D, Atkinson JP
Publication type: Review
Publication status: Published
Journal: Advances in Immunology
ISSN (print): 0065-2776
ISSN (electronic): 1557-8445