Antibody-independent activation of the alternative C pathway by human lymphoblastoid cell lines latently infected with EBV has been recognized for some time, although the mechanisms involved and the specific cell surface molecule(s) recognized by the C system have not been identified. The present studies, carried out with the purified proteins of the alternative pathway have addressed these questions. Activation of the purified proteins of the alternative pathway by Raji lymphoblastoid cells was found to be antibody independent, confirming earlier findings with serum. Surprisingly, activation was highly dependent on properdin. In other models properdin has been found to augment alternative pathway activation and to be required for lysis of virus infected cells. Molecules which activate the alternative pathway provide binding sites on which C3 breakdown by regulatory proteins is impeded; therefore intact C3b accumulates on the activator. Immunoprecipitation studies with either anti-CR2 or anti-C3 have identified CR2, the R for C3d,g and EBV, as a major covalent and noncovalent binding site for C3 deposition on Raji cells during alternative pathway activation. Covalently bound C3b was dissociated from CR2 by hydroxylamine, indicating attachment via an ester bond. C3b binding after activation was not reduced by an anti-CR2 mAb which blocks CR2 R function, indicating that it was probably not mediated by C3d,g R epitopes on CR2. Direct confirmation of the ability of CR2 to trigger the alternative pathway came from studies with purified CR2 which was found to activate the alternative C pathway in serum or in mixtures of the purified proteins of the pathway. This work provides conclusive evidence that CR2 is a C activator and functions in this capacity on Raji cells.