The anaphylatoxins complement component 3a and 5a (C3a and C5a, respectively) are classically seen as proinflammatory mediators of allergic asthma that recruit inflammatory cells, induce edema, and cause bronchoconstriction. A few years ago, controversy arose when it was shown that C5-deficient mice were more susceptible to experimental asthma compared with C5-sufficient mice. In a study by Köhl et al. in this issue of the JCI, it is shown in a series of truly “complementary” experiments that C5a receptor (C5aR) blockade promotes Th2 sensitization upon first exposure to inhaled allergen, whereas C5aR blockade during established inflammation suppresses the cardinal features of asthma (see the related article beginning on page 783). Blockade of C5aR alters the function of airway DCs, crucial for inducing and maintaining Th2 responses in the lung. Targeting C5aR as a treatment for established asthma could be beneficial, but might be accompanied by sensitization to novel antigens.
Bart N. Lambrecht