C5a alters blood-brain barrier integrity in experimental lupus

Alexander Jacob, Bradley Hack, Eddie Chiang, Joe G.N. Garcia, Richard J. Quigg, Jessy J. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a crucial anatomic location in the brain. Its dysfunction complicates many neurodegenerative diseases, from acute conditions, such as sepsis, to chronic diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Several studies suggest an altered BBB in lupus, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. In the current study, we observed a definite loss of BBB integrity in MRL/MpJ-Tnfrsf6lpr (MRL/lpr) lupus mice by IgG infiltration into brain parenchyma. In line with this result, we examined the role of complement activation, a key event in this setting, in maintenance of BBB integrity. Complement activation generates C5a, a molecule with multiple functions. Because the expression of the C5a receptor (C5aR) is significantly increased in brain endothelial cells treated with lupus serum, the study focused on the role of C5a signaling through its G-protein-coupled receptor C5aR in brain endothelial cells, in a lupus setting. Reactive oxygen species production increased significantly in endothelial cells, in both primary cells and the bEnd3 cell line treated with lupus serum from MRL/lpr mice, compared with those treated with control serum from MRL+/+ mice. In addition, increased permeability monitored by changes in transendothelial electrical resistance, cytoskeletal remodeling caused by actin fiber rearrangement, and increased iNOS mRNA expression were observed in bEnd3 cells. These disruptive effects were alleviated by pretreating cells with a C5a receptor antagonist (C5aRant) or a C5a antibody. Furthermore, the structural integrity of the vasculature in MRL/lpr brain was maintained by C5aR inhibition. These results demonstrate the regulation of BBB integrity by the complement system in a neuroinflammatory setting. For the first time, a novel role of C5a in the maintenance of BBB integrity is identified and the potential of C5a/C5aR blockade highlighted as a promising therapeutic strategy in SLE and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1682-1688
Number of pages7
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Complement system
  • Endothelium
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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