C1 esterase inhibitor blocks the activation of C1 (first component of the complement cascade) to its active form. The deficiency of C1 esterase inhibitor results in the inappropriate activation of C1 and the subsequent release of an activation peptide from C2 with kinin-like activity. This kinin-like peptide enhances vascular permeability. C1 esterase inhibitor deficiency results in hereditary or acquired angioedema. This disease is an autosomal dominant inherited condition, in which exhaustion of the abnormally low levels of C1 esterase inhibitor results in C1 activation, breakdown of C2 and C4, and subsequent acute edema of subcutaneous tissue, the gastrointestinal tract, or the upper respiratory tract. The disease responds to attenuated androgens.
Because 15% of C1 inhibitor deficiencies have nonfunctional protein, some patients will have abnormal functional results (FC1EQ / C1 Esterase Inhibitor, Functional Assay, Serum) in the presence of normal (or elevated) antigen levels