Complement factor H (beta-1H globulin) is an important regulatory protein which inhibits the spontaneous complement activation via the alternative pathway. We describe a 15-year-old girl without any detectable factor H in plasma. She has had two episodes of meningococcal disease, but is otherwise completely healthy. Secondary to the factor-H deficiency, the levels of factor B, properdin, C3, and C5-C9 were strongly reduced due to spontaneous in vivo activation of the alternative complement pathway. Plasma C3dg was strongly elevated in spite of the factor-H deficiency; apparently erythrocyte CR1 substitutes for factor H in C3 degradation. Neither C3 nor complement lesions were demonstrable on her erythrocytes which did, however, show increased, spontaneous haemolysis in vitro in citrate plasma, but not in serum. The patient is a single child and her parents, who are unrelated and healthy, had half-normal levels of factor H. This reduction of factor H is sufficient to cause increased, spontaneous activation of the alternative pathway.