Maturation of dendritic cells (DCs) is known to be induced by several stimuli, including microbial products, inflammatory cytokines and immobilized IgG, as demonstrated recently. Since immune complexes formed in vivo also contain C1q, moreover apoptotic cells and several pathogens fix C1q in the absence of antibodies, we undertook to investigate whether this complement protein has an impact on various functions of human DCs. Maturation of monocyte-derived immature DCs (imMDCs) cultured on immobilized C1q was followed by monitoring expression of CD80, CD83, CD86, MHCII and CCR7. The functional activity of the cells was assessed by measuring cytokine secretion and their ability to activate allogeneic T lymphocytes. Cytokine production by T cells co-cultured with C1q-matured DCs was also investigated. C1q, but not the structurally related mannose-binding lectin was found to bind to imMDC in a dose-dependent manner and induced NF-kappaB translocation to the nucleus. Immobilized C1q induced maturation of MDCs and enhanced secretion of IL-12 and TNF-alpha, moreover, elevated their T-cell stimulating capacity. As IFN-gamma levels were increased in supernatants of MDC-T cell co-cultures, our data suggest that C1q-induced DC maturation generates a Th1-type response. Interestingly, IL-10 levels were elevated by C1q-treated MDCs but not in the supernatant of their co-cultures with allogeneic T cells. Taken together, these results indicate that C1q-opsonized antigens may play a role in the induction and regulation of immune response. Moreover our data are relevant in view of the role of C1q in removal of apoptotic cells and the association between C1q-deficiency and autoimmunity.