The dependence of antibody-and-complement-mediated lysis of virus-infected cells on the alternative pathway was examined utilizing the isolated cytolytic alternative pathway--a system consisting of the six purified proteins of the alternative pathway of activation (C3, factors B and D, beta 1H, C3b inactivator and properdin), and the five proteins of the membrane attack pathway (C5--9) of complement. HeLa cells acutely infected with measles virus were lysed by anti-viral IgG and the isolated cytolytic alternative pathway with an efficiency comparable to whole human serum. IgG and its F(ab')2 fragment were equally effective in inducing lysis by the isolated cytolytic alternative pathway, binding of approximately equal to 5 X 10(7) molecules per cell being required for 50% lysis; in contrast, no lysis occurred when equivalen or greater amounts of Fab' were bound to the virus-infected cell. Properdin was required for lysis. No lysis occurred if properdin was deleted from the isolated cytolytic alternative pathway, and lysis was diminished by 80% in properdin-depleted serum. Uptake of [125I]C3b from the isolated alternative pathway onto measles virus-infected cells occurred in the absence of properdin, but was accelerated in the presence of properdin. The 11 proteins of the isolated cytolytic alternative pathway are thus sufficient for lysis of measles virus-infected cells bearing anti-viral IgG or F(ab')2 without any other serum protein.