It has been reported that complement is activated on the surface of activated platelets, despite the presence of multiple regulators of complement activation. To reinvestigate the mechanisms by which activated platelets bind to complement components, the presence of complement proteins on the surfaces of nonactivated and thrombin receptor-activating peptide-activated platelets was analyzed by flow cytometry and Western blot analyses. C1q, C4, C3, and C9 were found to bind to thrombin receptor-activating peptide-activated platelets in lepirudin-anticoagulated platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and whole blood. However, inhibiting complement activation at the C1q or C3 level did not block the binding of C3 to activated platelets. Diluting PRP and chelating divalent cations also had no effect, further indicating that the deposition of complement components was independent of complement activation. Furthermore, washed, activated platelets bound added C1q and C3 to the same extent as platelets in PRP. The use of mAbs against different forms of C3 demonstrated that the bound C3 consisted of C3(H(2)O). Furthermore, exogenously added soluble complement receptor 1 was shown to bind to this form of platelet-bound C3. These observations indicate that there is no complement activation on the surface of platelets under physiological conditions. This situation is in direct contrast to a number of pathological conditions in which regulators of complement activation are lacking and thrombocytopenia and thrombotic disease are the ultimate result. However, the generation of C3(H(2)O) represents nonproteolytic activation of C3 and after factor I cleavage may act as a ligand for receptor binding.