Earlier studies have shown that C3 can be denatured when blood comes in contact with a polystyrene surface. This study was undertaken to see if similar denaturation of C3 occurs at the gas-plasma interface which is found in all kinds of oxygenator used during cardio-pulmonary operations. An in vitro system consisting of gas bubbling through human blood, serum or plasma was used. The generation of C3a, as an indicator of complement activation, and iC3 and iC3 fragments were monitored. Both C3a and iC3/iC3 fragments levels were increased during bubbling. In contrast to the C3a level, no reduction in iC3/iC3 fragments formation was seen in the presence of EDTA, indicating that it was independent of complement activation. The rate of iC3/iC3 fragments generation was unaffected by the composition of the gas (pure oxygen, pure nitrogen or air), suggesting that the denaturation of C3 indeed occurred at the serum-gas interface. C3 and iC3/iC3 fragments were isolated from bubbled EDTA-chelated serum by PEG precipitation and chromatography on FPLC, using a Mono S column and detected by two ELISAs, specific for native C3 and iC3/iC3 fragments. After 240 min approximately 20% of the total amount of C3 consisted of intact iC3 and it was confirmed that this population bound to human erythrocytes.