The major source of natural IgM Abs are B-1 cells, which differ from conventional B cells in their anatomic location, cell surface phenotype, restricted usage of particular V(H) genes and limited use of N-region addition during V-D-J rearrangement. The origin of B-1 cells is unclear. However, they are capable of self-renewal and their development is sensitive to signaling via the B cell receptor, as genetic defects that impair the strength of the signal often result in limited development. These findings suggest that B-1 cells require either an intrinsic signal, or contact with Ag, for positive selection and expansion and/or maintenance in the periphery. In support of interaction with cognate Ag, deficiency in the complement receptors CD21/CD35 results in a 30-40% decrease in the CD5(+) B-1 population. To determine whether this reduction reflects a loss of certain specificities or simply a proportional decline in the repertoire, we examined peritoneal B cells isolated from Cr2(+) and Cr2(def) mice for recognition of a B-1 cell Ag, i.e., phosphatidylcholine, and assayed for injury in an IgM natural Ab-dependent model of reperfusion injury. We found a similar frequency of phosphatidylcholine-specific CD5(+) B-1 cells in the two strains of mice. By contrast, the Cr2(def) mice have reduced injury in the IgM-dependent model of reperfusion injury. Reconstitution of the deficient mice with pooled IgM or adoptive transfer of Cr2(+) peritoneal B cells restored injury. These results suggest that complement receptors CD21/CD35 are important in maintenance of the B-1 cell repertoire to some, but not all, specificities.