C1q is an essential component of the phylo-genetically ancient innate complement (C) system and is crucial to our natural ability to ward off infection and clear toxic cell debris (e.g. amyloid fibrils, apoptotic cells). Several candidate C1q receptors [C1q receptor for phagocytosis enhancement (C1qRp), complement receptor (CR) 1, calreticulin (CRT), binding protein for the globular head of C1q (gC1qbp)] have been described, and the aim of this review is to shed light on their structure-function relationships. One cell-surface molecule, C1qRp, has emerged as a defence collagen receptor for C1q, as well as mannose-binding lectin (MBL) and surfactant protein A. C1qRp (also known as the AA4 antigen in rodents) is the antigen recognized by a pro-adhesive monoclonal antibody called mNI-11 and antibodies against CD93, but recent results failed to confirm C1q binding activity. CR1 (CD35), a multifunctional receptor both in its ligand specificity and in its C regulation activities, is found on circulating monocytes and neutrophils, but the major site of expression is B-lymphocytes. As a receptor, CR1 binds to C1q, other C opsonins (C4b, C3b, iC3b) and MBL, and as such, has been involved in promoting phagocytosis. Several studies support a role for the cell surface receptor for the collagenous domains of C1q (cC1qR; also known as CRT). CRT belongs to the family of heat-shock proteins, the most abundant and ubiquitous soluble intracellular proteins. Though CRT does not have a transmembrane domain, it seems to mediate phagocytosis of the apoptotic cells through association with CD91. A 33 kDa protein interacts with the globular head of C1q and, logically, has been termed gC1qbp. This protein is located in mitochondria, suggesting that gC1 qbp is not a cell-surface receptor itself.

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