Anti-tubular basement membrane (TBM) antibody-associated tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN) in Brown-Norway rats is induced by immunization with bovine TBM antigens and adjuvants. The lesion is characterized by linear deposition of IgG and C3 along the TBM with sequential neutrophil (Days 8-9)- and mononuclear (Day 10 and after)-dominated inflammatory infiltrates. To study the complement dependence of the infiltrative process, immunized rats were decomplemented with cobra venom factor (CVF). The CVF treatment did not affect the production or renal deposition of anti-TBM antibodies. CVF markedly reduced the neutrophilic inflammatory infiltrate. In rats immunized with suboptimal doses of soluble bovine TBM antigens to produce a mild lesion, decomplementation also decreased the mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates on Days 10-13. In rats immunized optimally with particulate TBM to induce maximally severe TIN, decomplementation did not affect the mild mononuclear cell infiltrate on Days 8 and 9 but did somewhat reduce the subsequent mononuclear infiltrate on Days 10 and 12. These results demonstrate that the anti-TBM antibody- and C3-associated neutrophilic inflammatory infiltrate is largely complement dependent. The early mononuclear cell infiltrate that was unmodified by CVF treatment may be dependent on complement-independent humoral events or related to cell-mediated immune events. A portion of the later mononuclear inflammatory infiltrate could be dependent on the preceding neutrophilic inflammatory phase.