C4b-binding protein (C4BP) is a high-molecular-mass glycoprotein which contains binding sites for complement component C4b, anti-coagulant vitamin K-dependent protein S and serum amyloid P component (SAP). The major form of C4BP in plasma is composed of seven identical alpha-chains and a single beta-chain. We have expressed full-length cDNA for the alpha-chain in a eukaryotic expression system and characterized functional properties of non-beta-chain-containing C4BP. During synthesis, recombinant alpha-chains polymerized into two different high-molecular-mass C4BP forms which were composed of seven or eight alpha-chains. Recombinant C4BP bound C4(H2O) (used instead of C4b) equally as well as native C4BP, functioned equally as well as factor I cofactor in the degradation of C4(H2O) and bound to SAP. In contrast, the recombinant C4BP did not bind protein S and therefore did not inhibit the ability of protein S to function as a cofactor to activated protein C. Tunicamycin treatment of the transfected cells prevented N-linked glycosylation, but did not affect polymerization of the alpha-chains into a high-molecular-mass C4BP. The non-glycosylated C4BP had comparable properties to glycosylated C4BP in several functional assays. These results demonstrate polymerization of C4BP alpha-chains to be independent both of the beta-chain and of the N-linked carbohydrates. Moreover, N-linked carbohydrates and the beta-chain were neither required for the ability of C4BP to bind C4b and to function as factor I cofactor nor for the interaction with SAP.

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