Trypanosomes are known to activate the complement system on their surface, but they control the cascade in a manner such that the cascade does not progress into the terminal pathway. It was recently reported that the invariant surface glycoprotein ISG65 from Trypanosoma brucei interacts reversibly with complement C3 and its degradation products, but the molecular mechanism by which ISG65 interferes with complement activation remains unknown. In this study, we show that ISG65 does not interfere directly with the assembly or activity of the two C3 convertases. However, ISG65 acts as a potent inhibitor of C3 deposition through the alternative pathway in human and murine serum. Degradation assays demonstrate that ISG65 stimulates the C3b to iC3b converting activity of complement factor I in the presence of the cofactors factor H or complement receptor 1. A structure-based model suggests that ISG65 promotes a C3b conformation susceptible to degradation or directly bridges factor I and C3b without contact with the cofactor. In addition, ISG65 is observed to form a stable ternary complex with the ligand binding domain of complement receptor 3 and iC3b. Our data suggest that ISG65 supports trypanosome complement evasion by accelerating the conversion of C3b to iC3b through a unique mechanism.

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