The role of cell membrane-associated human factor H for the binding of cell-bound C3b to complement receptor-carrying (CR+) cells was investigated. Pretreatment of CR+ cells with antibodies to factor H inhibited the adherence of C3b-coated red cells to human tonsil lymphocytes (TL) and peripheral blood monocytes (M phi). The C3b receptor reactivity of human polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMN) was not influenced and the one of Raji lymphoblastoid cells only slightly influenced; iC3b and C3d receptor reactivity was in no case affected. When diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) in a concentration of 0.1 mM was present during pretreatment of the CR+ cells with anti H, the antibodies gained the capacity to inhibit the adherence of C3b-coated erythrocytes to Raji cells; this effect was dose-dependent with respect to DFP. In contrast, there was no influence of DFP on the inhibition pattern of anti H in the case of TL and M phi. The adherence of C3b-coated erythrocytes to PMN remained unaffected by anti-H antibodies in the presence of DFP. Polyclonal as well as monoclonal antibodies directed against human factor I inhibited the binding of C3b cells to Raji cells but not to TL. Additionally, when anti I and anti H antibodies were both present, C3b receptor reactivity of Raji cells was inhibited to a larger extent than with either antibody alone; again, TL remained unaffected. Results obtained by washing the Raji cells before and after treatment with anti H and anti I suggest that the respective antibodies act on factor H primarily on the level of the cell membrane and on factor I in the fluid phase.