The heptoseless mutant of Escherichia coli, E. coli D31 m4, binds C1q and C1 at 0 degrees C and at low ionic strength (I0.07). Under these conditions, the maximum C1q binding averages 3.0 × 10(5) molecules per bacterium, with a Ka of 1.4 × 10(8) M-1. Binding involves the collagen-like region of C1q, as shown by the capacity of C1q pepsin-digest fragments to bind to E. coli D31 m4, and to compete with native C1q. Proenzyme and activated forms of C1 subcomponents C1r and C1s and their Ca2+-dependent association (C1r-C1s)2 do not bind to E. coli D31 m4. In contrast, the C1 complex binds very effectively, with an average fixation of 3.5 × 10(5) molecules per bacterium, and a Ka of 0.25 × 10(8) M-1, both comparable with the values obtained for C1q binding. C1 bound to E. coli D31 m4 undergoes rapid activation at 0 degrees C. The activation process is not affected by C1-inhibitor, and only slightly inhibited by p-nitrophenyl p'-guanidinobenzoate. No turnover of the (C1r-C1s)2 subunit is observed. Once activated, C1 is only partially dissociated by C1-inhibitor. Our observations are in favour of a strong association between C1 and the outer membrane of E. coli D31 m4, involving mainly the collagen-like moiety of C1.

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