Complement signaling has been implicated as important for normal hepatic regeneration. However, the specific mechanism by which complement is activated during liver regeneration remains undefined. To address this question, we investigated the hepatic regenerative response to partial hepatectomy in wildtype mice, C3-, C4-, and factor B-null mice, and C4-null mice treated with a factor B neutralizing antibody (mAb 1379). The results showed that following partial hepatectomy, C3-null mice exhibit reduced hepatic regeneration compared to wildtype mice as assessed by quantification of hepatic cyclin D1 expression and hepatocellular DNA synthesis and mitosis. In contrast, C4-null mice and factor B-null mice demonstrated normal liver regeneration. Moreover, animals in which all of the traditional upstream C3 activation pathways were disrupted, i.e. C4-null mice treated with mAb 1379, exhibited normal C3 activation and hepatocellular proliferation following partial hepatectomy. In order to define candidate non-traditional mechanisms of C3 activation during liver regeneration, plasmin and thrombin were investigated for their abilities to activate C3 in mouse plasma in vitro. The results showed that both proteases are capable of initiating C3 activation, and that plasmin can do so independent of the classical and alternative pathways.
Conclusions: These results show that C3 is required for a normal hepatic regenerative response, but that disruption of the classical- or lectin-dependent pathways (C4-dependent), the alternative pathway (factor B-dependent), or all of these pathways does not impair the hepatic regenerative response, and indicate that non-traditional mechanisms by which C3 is activated during hepatic regeneration must exist. In vitro analysis raises the possibility that plasmin may contribute to non-traditional complement activation during liver regeneration in vivo.