Intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) exhibit numerous adaptations to maintain barrier function as well as play sentinel roles by expressing receptors for microbial products and antimicrobial peptides. The complement system is another important innate sensing and defense mechanism of the host against bacteria and increasing evidence shows that complement plays a role in colitis. The split component C5a is a potent proinflammatory molecule, and the C5a receptor (C5aR) CD88 has been reported on multiple cell types. Here, we examined the question of whether human colonic cell lines can detect activated complement via C5aR and what signaling pathway is critical in the subsequent responses. T84, HT29, and Caco2 cell lines all possessed mRNA and protein for C5aR and the decoy receptor C5L2. Polarized cells expressed the proteins on the apical cell membrane. C5a binding to the C5aR on human IECs activates the ERK pathway, which proved critical for a subsequent upregulation of IL-8 mRNA, increased permeability of monolayers, and enhanced proliferation of the cells. The fact that human IECs are capable of detecting complement activation in the lumen via this anaphylatoxin receptor highlights the potential for IECs to detect pathogens indirectly through complement activation and be primed to amplify the host response through heightened inflammatory mediator expression to further recruit immune cells.