Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) reactive against complement components involved in the classical activation pathway were applied in an indirect immunoperoxidase technique for the histological study of normal and diseased human renal tissues. Prominent staining with antibodies against the C4d fragment was seen in all glomeruli and some renal arteriolar walls. The C4d staining was mesangial with light microscopy, whereas the subendothelial site of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) also appeared to be positive in immunoelectron microscopy. In similar localization, albeit with distinctly weaker intensity, IgM and C4 binding protein (C4bp) were detected. In kidney biopsies from patients with various types of glomerulonephritis, C4d reactive antibodies stained the glomerular structures in a strong, diffuse or granular pattern in contrast to the more segmental distribution and weaker staining intensity in normal kidney specimens. Increased amounts of C4d, occasionally also of C4b, were paralleled in diseased kidney tissues by distinct deposits of IgM and/or IgG in the presence of C4bp. This study suggests that the C4d fragment in normal human glomeruli is indicative of a continuous, local complement activation via the classical pathway induced by the physiological deposition of IgM-containing immune complexes.