This study describes the presence of a receptor for fluid phase human C3 and C3b on Raji cell membranes. The binding of C3 and C3b was demonstrated indirectly by a fluoresceinated anti-C3 serum and directly by using radioiodinated proteins. No other complement proteins or serum factors were needed to mediate binding of C3 and C3b to the receptor. The possibility of enzymatic cleavage of C3 before or after its attachment on the cell membrane was ruled out by the demonstration of antigenically intact C3 on Raji cells. Inhibition and dissociation of Raji cell-EAC1423 rosettes by C3 and C3b indicated that both of these proteins bind to the same receptor site or closely associated receptor sites on Raji cells. C3b-bearing Raji cells were immune adherence negative, indicating that C3b binding to the receptor is brought about through the immune adherence region of the molecule and not the C3d portion. The C3 receptor on Raji cell membranes is uniformly distributed and can move on the membrane plane. Approximately 4 x 10(5) molecules of C3 or C3b bind per Raji cell. The receptor had a higher affinity for C3 than C3b, as was shown by uptake experiments and inhibition of Raji cell-EAC1423 rosette formation. Apart from the described receptor for C3 and C3b another specific receptor for C3b inactivator-cleaved C3b (C3d) bound to red cells was shown to be present on Raji cells. Raji cells cultured in medium containing fresh normal human serum and cobra venom factor were lysed. Similar results were obtained when C3b-bearing Raji cells were cultured in medium with fresh normal human serum. The lytic effect could be abolished by inactivating serum C3 proactivator (C3PA) and required C6. It was concluded that C3b bound to the Raji cell membrane activates the complement system through the alternate pathway and results in membrane damage and cytolysis. It is postulated that cell destruction by this mechanism may play an important role in vivo in controlling cell growth.