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Bisretinoid-mediated complement activation on retinal pigment epithelial cells is dependent on complement factor H haplotype.

  • Author(s): Radu, Roxana A;
  • Hu, Jane;
  • Jiang, Zhichun;
  • Bok, Dean
  • et al.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common central blinding disease of the elderly. Homozygosity for a sequence variant causing Y402H and I62V substitutions in the gene for complement factor H (CFH) is strongly associated with risk of AMD. CFH, secreted by many cell types, including those of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), is a regulatory protein that inhibits complement activation. Recessive Stargardt maculopathy is another central blinding disease caused by mutations in the gene for ABCA4, a transporter in photoreceptor outer segments (OS) that clears retinaldehyde and prevents formation of toxic bisretinoids. Photoreceptors daily shed their distal OS, which are phagocytosed by the RPE cells. Here, we investigated the relationship between the CFH haplotype of human RPE (hRPE) cells, exposure to OS containing bisretinoids, and complement activation. We show that hRPE cells of the AMD-predisposing CFH haplotype (HH402/VV62) are attacked by complement following exposure to bisretinoid-containing Abca4(-/-) OS. This activation was dependent on factor B, indicating involvement of the alternative pathway. In contrast, hRPE cells of the AMD-protective CFH haplotype (YY402/II62) showed no complement activation following exposure to either Abca4(-/-) or wild-type OS. The AMD-protective YY402/II62 hRPE cells were more resistant to the membrane attack complex, whereas HH402/VV62 hRPE cells showed significant membrane attack complex deposition following ingestion of Abca4(-/-) OS. These results suggest that bisretinoid accumulation in hRPE cells stimulates activation and dysregulation of complement. Cells with an intact complement negative regulatory system are protected from complement attack, whereas cells with reduced CFH synthesis because of the Y402H and I62V substitutions are vulnerable to disease.

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