Activation of the complement cascade leads to the generation of multiple breakdown products which bind on to specific cellular receptors and regulate their function. In this review, we describe the biochemical and physiological features of the 7 known complement receptors. Four of them (complement receptors 1, 2, and 3 and receptors for C3a) bind cleavage fragments of the third component of the complement and three have specificity for C1q, factor H and C5a. In patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, a unique human autoimmune disorder, the numbers of CR1 on the surface of the red blood cells are decreased; in this review we discuss the implications in the pathogenesis of SLE. A number of patients have now been reported whose cells lack CR3 from their surface; this deficiency is associated with a number of immune cell dysfunctions which are discussed in detail. Finally, we discuss aberrations in the expression of complement receptors in certain human leukemic cells.