The distribution and endocytosis of the C3b receptor by human polymorphonuclear leukocytes and monocytes were visualized by both fluorescent and electron microscopic examination of cells that had been labeled with monospecific F(ab')2 anti-C3b receptor and anti-F(ab')2 conjugated with rhodamine or ferritin. When prefixed or unfixed cells that were labeled at 0 to 4 degrees C were examined, the receptor was distributed within clusters on the plasma membrane. After the cells had been warmed to room temperature or to 37 degrees C for 5 minutes, the fluorescently labeled receptors appeared to enter the cells, and the ferritin-tagged receptors often occurred within coated endocytic pits and coated vesicles within the cytoplasm. After incubation at 37 degrees C for 20 minutes, the C3b receptor-antibody complexes were largely cleared from the cell surface, and much of the label was found within lysosomes. These results indicate that C3b receptors may directly mediate endocytosis within coated pits, thus utilizing a mechanism shared by a variety of other receptors for the rapid, efficient, and selective internalization of extracellular ligands.