The sites are on the CH2 domain of IgG and, it is thought, on the CH4 domain of IgM.
The appropriate peptide sequence of the complement fixing site might become exposed following complexing of the immunoglobulin, or the sites might always be available, but might require multiple attachment by C1q with critical geometry in order to achieve the necessary avidity.
C1q is a 400kDa protein formed from 18 peptide chains in 3 subunits of 6. Each 6 peptide subunit consists of a Y-shaped pair of triple peptide helices joined at the stem and ending in a globular non-helical head.
The classical and alternative complement pathways.
It is assumed that the globular ends are the sites for multivalent attachment to the complement fixing sites in immune complexed immunoglobulin. Patients suffering from Lupus erythematosus often have deficient expression of C1q. Genetic deficiency of C1q is extremely rare (approximately 75 known cases) although the majority (>90%) of those suffer from SLE. C1q may also play a central role in the aging of cells.