The complement system has been thought to originate exclusively in the deuterostomes. Here, we show that the central complement components already existed in the primitive protostome lineage. A functional homolog of vertebrate complement 3, CrC3, has been isolated from a 'living fossil', the horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda). CrC3 resembles human C3 and shows closest homology to C3 sequences of lower deuterostomes. CrC3 and plasma lectins bind a wide range of microbes, forming the frontline innate immune defense system. Additionally, we identified CrC2/Bf, a homolog of vertebrate C2 and Bf that participates in C3 activation, and a C3 receptor-like sequence. Furthermore, complement-mediated phagocytosis of bacteria by the hemocytes of horseshoe crab was also observed. Thus, a primitive yet complex opsonic complement defense system is revealed in the horseshoe crab, a protostome species. Our findings demonstrate an ancient origin of the critical complement components and the opsonic defense mechanism in the Precambrian ancestor of bilateral animals.
- Innate immunity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)