The catalytic site for C4 of C1s has been presumed to consist of a C4-binding domain and a proteolytic domain. A mAb to C1s, M81, blocked C4 activation and C4 binding to C1s. M81 recognized the H chain of C1s. Using M81 as a probe, we tried to define C4-binding site on C1s. Plasmin digestion of C1s generated four products of Mr 58,000 (P1), 48,000 (P2), 37,000 (P3), and 27,000 (P4). These products, except for P2, all possessed a 26,000-Da H chain fragment (26k-HF) connected to variable-sized L chain pieces. 26k-HF alone had an ability to interact with M81. Amino-terminal amino acid analysis of 26k-HF mapped the epitope for M81 to domain IV and/or V of gamma-domain of C1s. The gamma-domain therefore contains the C4-binding site. The confirm and further elucidate the role of the C4-binding site for C4, we used a substrate-blotting technique in which labeled C4 was incubated with nitrocellulose membrane-fixed C1s and its fragments. C4 was successfully blotted onto C1s and P1, but not P2-P4; i.e., further degradation of the L chain led to the loss of C4-binding. During the incubation, most of the added C4 was converted to C4b. The binding was augmented, if the proteolytic activity of C1s and P1 was blocked, so that the added C4 remained intact. Although C4b also bound to C1s and P1, its binding was less effective and abolished by the addition of cold C4. Based on these results, the gamma-domain and the L chain constitute the catalytic site of C1s to activate C4 to C4b. Moreover, the generated C4b, although it still has weak affinity for C1s, can be replaced by newly coming C4.

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