Complement drives glucosylceramide accumulation and tissue inflammation in Gaucher disease

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Abstract

Gaucher disease is caused by mutations inGBA1, which encodes the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (GCase).GBA1mutations drive extensive accumulation of glucosylceramide (GC) in multiple innate and adaptive immune cells in the spleen, liver, lung and bone marrow, often leading to chronic inflammation1. The mechanisms that connect excess GC to tissue inflammation remain unknown. Here we show that activation of complement C5a and C5a receptor 1 (C5aR1) controls GC accumulation and the inflammatory response in experimental and clinical Gaucher disease. Marked local and systemic complement activation occurred in GCase-deficient mice or after pharmacological inhibition of GCase and was associated with GC storage, tissue inflammation and proinflammatory cytokine production. Whereas all GCase-inhibited mice died within 4–5 weeks, mice deficient in both GCase and C5aR1, and wild-type mice in which GCase and C5aR were pharmacologically inhibited, were protected from these adverse effects and consequently survived. In mice and humans, GCase deficiency was associated with strong formation of complement-activating GC-specific IgG autoantibodies, leading to complement activation and C5a generation. Subsequent C5aR1 activation controlled UDP-glucose ceramide glucosyltransferase production, thereby tipping the balance between GC formation and degradation. Thus, extensive GC storage induces complement-activating IgG autoantibodies that drive a pathway of C5a generation and C5aR1 activation that fuels a cycle of cellular GC accumulation, innate and adaptive immune cell recruitment and activation in Gaucher disease. As enzyme replacement and substrate reduction therapies are expensive2and still associated with inflammation3,4, increased risk of cancer5and Parkinson disease6, targeting C5aR1 may serve as a treatment option for patients with Gaucher disease and, possibly, other lysosomal storage diseases.

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