C3 Drives Inflammatory Skin Carcinogenesis Independently of C5

William D. Jackson, Alessandro Gulino, Liliane Fossati-Jimack, Rocio Castro Seoane, Kunyuan Tian, Katie Best, Jörg Köhl, Beatrice Belmonte, Jessica Strid*, Marina Botto

*Corresponding author for this work


Nonmelanoma skin cancer such as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is the most common form of cancer and can occur as a consequence of DNA damage to the epithelium by UVR or chemical carcinogens. There is growing evidence that the complement system is involved in cancer immune surveillance; however, its role in cSCC remains unclear. Here, we show that complement genes are expressed in tissue from patients with cSCC, and C3 activation fragments are present in cSCC biopsies, indicating complement activation. Using a range of complement-deficient mice in a two-stage mouse model of chemically-induced cSCC, where a subclinical dose of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene causes oncogenic mutations in epithelial cells and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate promotes the outgrowth of these cells, we found that C3-deficient mice displayed a significantly reduced tumor burden, whereas an opposite phenotype was observed in mice lacking C5aR1, C5aR2, and C3a receptor. In addition, in mice unable to form the membrane attack complex, the tumor progression was unaltered. C3 deficiency did not affect the cancer response to 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene treatment alone but reduced the epidermal hyperplasia during 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate–induced inflammation. Collectively, these data indicate that C3 drives tumorigenesis during chronic skin inflammation, independently of the downstream generation of C5a or membrane attack complex.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Publication statusPublished - 16.07.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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