Pathogenic role of complement in antiphospholipid syndrome and therapeutic implications

Francesco Tedesco, Maria Orietta Borghi, Maria Gerosa, Cecilia Beatrice Chighizola, Paolo Macor, Paola Adele Lonati, Alessandro Gulino, Beatrice Belmonte, Pier Luigi Meroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an acquired autoimmune disease characterized by thromboembolic events, pregnancy morbidity, and the presence of antiphospholipid (aPL) antibodies. There is sound evidence that aPL act as pathogenic autoantibodies being responsible for vascular clots and miscarriages. However, the exact mechanisms involved in the clinical manifestations of the syndrome are still a matter of investigation. In particular, while vascular thrombosis is apparently not associated with inflammation, the pathogenesis of miscarriages can be explained only in part by the aPL-mediated hypercoagulable state and additional non-thrombotic effects, including placental inflammation, have been described. Despite this difference, evidence obtained from animal models and studies in APS patients support the conclusion that complement activation is a common denominator in both vascular and obstetric APS. Tissue-bound aPL rather than circulating aPL-beta2 glycoprotein I immune complexes seem to be responsible for the activation of the classical and the alternative complement pathways. The critical role of complement is supported by the finding that complement-deficient animals are protected from the pathogenic effect of passively infused aPL and similar results have been obtained blocking complement activation. Moreover, elevated levels of complement activation products in the absence of abnormalities in regulatory molecules have been found in the plasma of APS patients, strongly suggesting that the activation of complement cascade is the result of aPL binding to the target antigen rather than of a defective regulation. Placental complement deposits represent a further marker of complement activation both in animals and in patients, and there is also some suggestive evidence that complement activation products are deposited in the affected vessels. The aim of this review is to analyze the state of the art of complement involvement in the pathogenesis of APS in order to provide insights into the role of this system as predictive biomarker for the clinical manifestations and as therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1388
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - Jun 19 2018


  • Animal models
  • Anti-beta2 glycoprotein I antibodies
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Complement
  • Inflammation
  • Miscarriages
  • Therapy
  • Thrombosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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