The acute lung injury (ALI) that occurs after the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus infection is associated with an abnormal host innate immune response. Because the complement system plays a central role in innate immunity and because aberrant complement activation is associated with a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, we investigated the complement involvement in the pathogenesis of ALI induced by H5N1 virus infection. We showed that ALI in H5N1-infected mice was caused by excessive complement activation, as demonstrated by deposition of C3, C5b-9, and mannose-binding lectin (MBL)-C in lung tissue, and by up-regulation of MBL-associated serine protease-2 and the complement receptors C3aR and C5aR. Treatment of H5N1-infected mice with a C3aR antagonist led to significantly reduced inflammation in lungs, alleviating ALI. Furthermore, complement inhibition with an anti-C5a antibody or complement depletion with cobra venom factor after H5N1 challenge resulted in a similar level of protection to that seen in C3aR antagonist-treated mice. These results indicate that excessive complement activation plays an important role in mediating H5N1-induced ALI and that inhibition of complement may be an effective clinical intervention and adjunctive treatment for H5N1-induced ALI.