During the activation of complement C4 to C4b, the exposure of its thioester domain (TED) is crucial for the attachment of C4b to activator surfaces. In the C4b crystal structure, TED forms an Arg104-Glu1032 salt bridge to tether its neighbouring macroglobulin (MG1) domain. Here, we examined the C4b domain structure to test whether this salt bridge affects its conformation. Dual polarisation interferometry of C4b immobilised at a sensor surface showed that the maximum thickness of C4b increased by 0.46 nm with increase in NaCl concentration from 50 mM to 175 mM NaCl. Analytical ultracentrifugation showed that the sedimentation coefficient s20, w of monomeric C4b of 8.41 S in 50 mM NaCl buffer decreased to 7.98 S in 137 mM NaCl buffer, indicating that C4b became more extended. Small angle X-ray scattering reported similar RG values of 4.89-4.90 nm for C4b in 137-250 mM NaCl. Atomistic scattering modelling of the C4b conformation showed that TED and the MG1 domain were separated by 4.7 nm in 137-250 mM NaCl, this being greater than that of 4.0 nm in the C4b crystal structure. Our data reveal that in low NaCl concentrations, both at surfaces and in solution, C4b forms compact TED-MG1 structures. In solution, physiologically-relevant NaCl concentrations lead to the separation of the TED and MG1 domain, making C4b less able to bind to its complement regulators. These conformational changes are similar to those seen previously for complement C3b, confirming the importance of this salt bridge for regulating both C4b and C3b.
- complement C4b
- dual polarisation interferometry
- small angle X-ray scattering
- molecular modelling
- ©2016 The Author(s)
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