Also available from http://iai.asm.org/ and from PubMed Central.The complement system and the natural antibody repertoire provide a critical first-line defense against infection. The binding of natural antibodies to microbial surfaces opsonizes invading microorganisms and activates complement via the classical pathway. Both defense systems cooperate within the innate immune response. We studied the role of the complement system in the host defense against experimental polymicrobial peritonitis using mice lacking either C1q or factor B and C2. The C1q-deficient mice lacked the classical\ud pathway of complement activation. The factor B- and C2-deficient mice were known to lack the classical and alternative pathways, and we demonstrate here that these mice also lacked the lectin pathway of complement activation. Using inoculum doses adjusted to cause 42% mortality in the wild-type strain, none of the mice\ud deficient in the three activation routes of complement (factor B and C2 deficient) survived (mortality of 100%). Mortality in mice deficient only in the classical pathway of complement activation (C1q deficient) was 83%. Application of further dilutions of the polymicrobial inoculum showed a dose-dependent decrease of mortality in wild-type controls, whereas no changes in mortality were observed in the two gene-targeted strains. These results demonstrate that the classical activation pathway is required for an effective antimicrobial immune defense in polymicrobial peritonitis and that, in the infection model used, the remaining antibody-independent complement activation routes (alternative and lectin pathways) provide a supporting line of defense to gain\ud residual protection in classical pathway deficiency
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