The development and progression of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is strongly associated with complement activation and deposition. To characterize the role of C5a and its receptor (C5aR) in SLE, C5aR-deficient mice were backcrossed nine generations onto the lupus-like MRL(lpr) genetic background. Evidence is presented that C5aR modulates both renal injury and T cell responses in MRL(lpr) mouse. C5aR-deficient MRL(lpr) mice had prolonged viability, with a mean survival time of 33.0 wk compared with 22.6 wk in control mice. Renal injury was also attenuated in the C5aR-/- MRL(lpr) mice. At 20 wk of age C5aR-/- MRL(lpr) mice had a complete absence of glomerular crescents and marked reductions in glomerular hypercellularity. There was no difference in the degree of glomerular C3 deposition; however, IgG deposits were reduced in the C5aR-/- MRL(lpr) mice. The reduction in glomerular injury was also associated with a four-fold decrease in renal CD4+ T cell infiltrates. Whereas there were modest differences in total IgG anti-dsDNA antibody titers, C5aR-deficient mice had 3.5-fold higher levels of IgG1 and 15-fold lower levels of IgG2a anti-dsDNA antibody titers compared to controls. The differences in anti-dsDNA IgG subclasses were associated with reduced CD4+ Th-1 responses in the C5aR-/- MRL(lpr) mice, including diminished production of IL-12p70, IFN-gamma, and increased expression of the Th-2 transcription factor GATA-3. These findings indicate that the C5aR plays a major role in modulating complement-dependent renal injury and T helper cell Th-1 responses in the MRL(lpr) mouse.