Activation of the classical complement pathway by Bacillus anthracis is the primary mechanism for spore phagocytosis and involves the spore surface protein BclA. Academic Article uri icon


  • Interactions between spores of Bacillus anthracis and macrophages are critical for the development of anthrax infections, as spores are thought to use macrophages as vehicles to disseminate in the host. In this study, we report a novel mechanism for phagocytosis of B. anthracis spores. Murine macrophage-like cell line RAW264.7, bone marrow-derived macrophages, and primary peritoneal macrophages from mice were used. The results indicated that activation of the classical complement pathway (CCP) was a primary mechanism for spore phagocytosis. Phagocytosis was significantly reduced in the absence of C1q or C3. C3 fragments were found deposited on the spore surface, and the deposition was dependent on C1q and Ca(2+). C1q recruitment to the spore surface was mediated by the spore surface protein BclA, as recombinant BclA bound directly and specifically to C1q and inhibited C1q binding to spores in a dose-dependent manner. C1q binding to spores lacking BclA (bclA) was also significantly reduced compared with wild-type spores. In addition, deposition of both C3 and C4 as well as phagocytosis of spores were significantly reduced when BclA was absent, but were not reduced in the absence of IgG, suggesting that BclA, but not IgG, is important in these processes. Taken together, these results support a model in which spores actively engage CCP primarily through BclA interaction with C1q, leading to CCP activation and opsonophagocytosis of spores in an IgG-independent manner. These findings are likely to have significant implications on B. anthracis pathogenesis and microbial manipulation of complement.

published proceedings

  • J Immunol

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Gu, C., Jenkins, S. A., Xue, Q., & Xu, Y. i.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Gu, Chunfang||Jenkins, Sarah A||Xue, Qiong||Xu, Yi

publication date

  • May 2012