C4b-binding protein (C4BP) regulates the classical pathway C3-convertase of the complement system. Human C4BP is composed of seven identical subunits (α-chains) and one unique one (β-chain). Both types of chains contain homologous repeats called complement control proteins (CCPs); the α-chain contains eight CCPs and the β-chain three. Each α-chain contains a binding site for C4b although the detailed localization of this binding site is not known. We have used three different chimeric proteins, originally designed to localize the protein S-binding site on C4BP, to demonstrate the importance of the amino-terminal part of the α-chain for the complement-regulatory functions of C4BP. These recombinant proteins were composed of C4BP α-chains with one, two or three of the amino-terminal CCPs replaced by corresponding CCPs from the C4BP β-chain. Furthermore, seven different monoclonal antibodies were raised against C4BP and characterized using the recombinant chimeric proteins. Whereas all three recombinant chimeras bind protein S with the same affinity as plasma-purified C4BP, none of them bound to C4b. Three of the antibodies, which were found to bind to α-chain CCP 1 and CCP 2, completely inhibited the binding of plasma-purified C4BP to immobilized C4b. In addition, two of these antibodies totally blocked the factor I-cofactor activity of C4BP in a C4b-degradation assay. The binding site for one of the monoclonal antibodies was also studied using electron microscopy where it was confirmed that this antibody bound to the amino-terminal tip of the α-chain. These results show that the amino-terminal CCP of the C4BP α-chain (CCP 1) is crucial for the C4b binding and factor I-cofactor activity.

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