Human complement protein C1q forms together with C1r and C1s the C1 macromolecule, the first component of the classical complement pathway. Interaction of immune complexes with C1q induces a conformational change within the C1 complex, which results in activation of the classical pathway. C1q functions as recognition unit by binding to the heavy chain of IgG or IgM (Fc gamma and Fc micro) provided that the immunoglobulins are bound to their antigen. Furthermore, C1q can bind to apoptotic blebs, where it activates the classical complement pathway and mediates phagocytosis. As such, C1q promotes the clearance of apoptotic cells and subsequent exposure of auto antigens, thereby preventing stimulation of the immune system.
C1q is predominantly produced by macrophages but also by follicular dendritic cells, interdigitating cells and cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage. C1q deficiency has a profound effect on host defence and clearance of immune complexes. Absence of C1q may cause autoimmunity by impairment of the clearance of apoptotic cells. Inherited C1q deficiency is also associated with the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
The biological activity of C1q is defined as the amount of C1q required to yield 50% lysis of sensitized erythrocytes (EA).
For functional studies, in vitro dilutions have to be optimized in user's experimental setting.