Duplication and diversification of several complement components is a striking feature of bony fish complement systems. It gives an interesting insight into an evolutionary strategy for the possible enhancement of the repertoire of innate immunity. The present study is aimed at examining diversity in bony fish C4, a member of the thioester-containing complement components. Two diverged cDNA sequences sharing only ∼32% identity at the amino acid level were isolated from the common carp and designated C4-1 and C4-2. C4-1 and C4-2 share a number of C4-like structural signatures, such as the thioester site and a disulfide-linked three-chain structure. Interestingly, they differ at the residue corresponding to the thioester-catalytic histidine, as seen in the human C4A and C4B isotypes, suggesting their distinct substrate specificities in the binding reaction of the thioester. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that the divergence of C4-1 and C4-2 predated the separation of the cartilaginous and bony fish lineages. Genomic Southern hybridization suggests the presence of single copy genes each encoding C4-1 and C4-2 in the carp genome. An activation fragment, C4a, was shown to be released from each isotype in carp serum activated via the classical aad/or lectin pathways. Synthetic peptides representing a putative C2 binding site on C4-1 and C4-2 inhibited the classical pathway-mediated hemolytic activity of carp seram in a dose-dependent manner. The results suggest that C4-1 and C4-2 represent two major lineages of C4 that are present in carp serum, have distinct binding specificities, and are functional in the classical/lectin pathways of complement activation.
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