The first component of complement (C1) is composed of 3 subunits designated as C1q, C1r, and C1s. C1q recognizes and binds to immunoglobulin complexed to antigen and initiates the complement cascade. Congenital deficiencies of any of the early complement components (C1, C2, C4) results in an inability to clear immune complexes. Inherited deficiency of C1 is rare.
Like the more common C2 deficiency, C1 deficiency is associated with increased incidence of immune complex disease (systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyositis, glomerulonephritis, and Henoch-Schonlein purpura). Low C1 levels have also been reported in patients with abnormal immunoglobulin levels (Bruton and common variable hypogammaglobulinemia and severe combined immunodeficiency). This is most likely due to increased catabolism.
The measurement of C1q is an indicator of the amount of C1 present.