Complement Membrane Attack Pathway

Agustin P Dalmasso, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, VA Medical Center and University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The membrane attack pathway represents a common effector mechanism of the classical and alternative pathways of complement activation. Activation of the membrane attack pathway constitutes the last stage of complement activation and results in assembly of a multiprotein complex known as the membrane attack complex (MAC). The MAC is comprised of the complement components C5b, C6, C7, C8 and C9 (Table 1). Assembly of the MAC on the surface of a cell may have two major consequences. First, the MAC may activate a series of cellular processes that result in MAC elimination as well as cellular responses that are mostly proinflammatory. Second, if sufficient MAC attaches to a cell membrane, cell death may ensue. The name MAC derives from this latter property as the complex can damage a cell membrane independently of the binding of earlier complement components to that cell.

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