Spatial and temporal profiling of the complement system uncovered novel functions of the alternative complement pathway in brain development
Mounting evidence implicated the classical complement pathway (CP) in normal brain development, and the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. However the source and regulation of complement in the brain remain unclear. Using MERFISH, a spatial transcriptomic method with single-cell resolution, we established a developmental brain atlas of the complement system. We showed that the brain synthesizes essential building blocks of the complement system locally with remarkable cellular and spatial heterogeneity. We provided transcriptional evidence supporting the presence of the alternative pathway (AP), but lack of lectin pathway (LP) activity in postnatal brain development. Cell type, temporal and spatial expression patterns of genes involved indicate non-redundant functions of the CP and AP. In addition, deficiency in Masp3-driven AP resulted in developmental and cognitive defects, indicating essential functions of the AP, an observation that highlights the necessity to disentangle differential involvement of the three complement activation pathways in development and diseases.