The membrane attack complex of the complement system is essential for rapid Wallerian degeneration.

Research paper by Valeria V Ramaglia, Rosalind Helen Mary RH King, Michelle M Nourallah, Ruud R Wolterman, Rosalein R de Jonge, Marja M Ramkema, Miriam Ann MA Vigar, Sandra S van der Wetering, Brian Paul BP Morgan, Dirk D Troost, Frank F Baas

Indexed on: 20 Jul '07Published on: 20 Jul '07Published in: The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience


The complement (C) system plays an important role in myelin breakdown during Wallerian degeneration (WD). The pathway and mechanism involved are, however, not clear. In a crush injury model of the sciatic nerve, we show that C6, necessary for the assembly of the membrane attack complex (MAC), is essential for rapid WD. At 3 d after injury, pronounced WD occurred in wild-type animals, whereas the axons and myelin of C6-deficient animals appeared intact. Macrophage recruitment and activation was inhibited in C6-deficient rats. However, 7 d after injury, the distal part of the C6-deficient nerves appeared degraded. As a consequence of a delayed WD, more myelin breakdown products were present than in wild-type nerves. Reconstitution of the C6-deficient animals with C6 restored the wild-type phenotype. Treatment with rhC1INH (recombinant human complement 1 inhibitor) blocked deposition of activated C-cleaved products after injury. These experiments demonstrate that the classical pathway of the complement system is activated after acute nerve trauma and that the entire complement cascade, including MAC deposition, is essential for rapid WD and efficient clearance of myelin after acute peripheral nerve trauma.