Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease characterized by microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and acute renal failure. Recent studies have identified a factor H-associated form of HUS, caused by gene mutations that cluster in the C-terminal region of the complement regulator factor H. Here we report how three mutations (E1172Stop, R1210C, and R1215G; each of the latter two identified in three independent cases from different, unrelated families) affect protein function. All three mutations cause reduced binding to the central complement component C3b/C3d to heparin, as well as to endothelial cells. These defective features of the mutant factor H proteins explain progression of endothelial cell and microvascular damage in factor H-associated genetic HUS and indicate a protective role of factor H for tissue integrity during thrombus formation.
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