An in vitro model mimicking the complement system to favor directed phagocytosis of unwanted cells

Ivonne M. Bartsch, Karen Perelmuter, Mariela Bollati-Fogolín, J. Angelo Bartsch, Fanny Guzmán, SERGIO HERNAN MARSHALL GONZALEZ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Opsonization, is the molecular mechanism by which target molecules promote interactions with phagocyte cell surface receptors to remove unwanted cells by induced phagocytosis. We designed an in vitro system to demonstrate that this procedure could be driven to eliminate adipocytes, using peptides mimicking regions of the complement protein C3b to promote opsonization and enhance phagocytosis. Two cell lines were used: (1) THP-1 monocytes differentiated to macrophages, expressing the C3b opsonin receptor CR1 in charge of the removal of unwanted coated complexes; (2) 3T3-L1 fibroblasts differentiated to adipocytes, expressing AQP7, to evaluate the potential of peptides to stimulate opsonization. (3) A co-culture of the two cell lines to demonstrate that phagocytosis could be driven to cell withdrawal with high efficiency and specificity. Results: An array of peptides were designed and chemically synthesized p3691 and p3931 joined bound to the CR1 receptor activating phagocytosis (p < 0.033) while p3727 joined the AQP7 protein (p < 0.001) suggesting that opsonization of adipocytes could occur. In the co-culture system p3980 and p3981 increased lipid uptake to 91.2% and 89.0%, respectively, as an indicator of potential adipocyte phagocytosis. Conclusions: This in vitro model could help understand the receptor–ligand interaction in the withdrawal of unwanted macromolecules in vivo. The adipocyte-phagocytosis discussed may help to control obesity, since peptides of C3b stimulated the CR1 receptor, promoting opsonisation and phagocytosis of lipid-containing structures, and recognition of AQP7 in the differentiated adipocytes, favored the phagocytic activity of macrophages, robustly supported by the co-culture strategy. How to cite: Bartsch IM, Perelmuter K, Bollati-Fogolin M, et al. An in vitro model mimicking the complement system to favor directed phagocytosis of unwanted cells. Electron J Biotechnol 2020;49.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-13
Number of pages9
JournalElectronic Journal of Biotechnology
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipocytes
  • Complement system phagocytosis
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Foam cells
  • Macrophages
  • Opsonin
  • Opsonization
  • Peptides
  • Protein structure
  • Unwanted cells


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