The complement system in age-related macular degeneration

Angela Armento, Marius Ueffing, Simon Clark

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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic and progressive degenerative disease of the retina, which culminates in blindness and affects mainly the elderly population. AMD pathogenesis and pathophysiology are incredibly complex due to the structural and cellular complexity of the retina, and the variety of risk factors and molecular mechanisms that contribute to disease onset and progression. AMD is driven by a combination of genetic predisposition, natural ageing changes and lifestyle factors, such as smoking or nutritional intake. The mechanism by which these risk factors interact and converge towards AMD are not fully understood and therefore drug discovery is challenging, where no therapeutic attempt has been fully effective thus far. Genetic and molecular studies have identified the complement system as an important player in AMD. Indeed, many of the genetic risk variants cluster in genes of the alternative pathway of the complement system and complement activation products are elevated in AMD patients. Nevertheless, attempts in treating AMD via complement regulators have not yet been successful, suggesting a level of complexity that could not be predicted only from a genetic point of view. In this review, we will explore the role of complement system in AMD development and in the main molecular and cellular features of AMD, including complement activation itself, inflammation, ECM stability, energy metabolism and oxidative stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4487-4505
Number of pages19
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Ageing
  • Complement system
  • Genetics
  • Ophthalmology
  • Retinal biology


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