Whereas C5a is a well-established potent activator of eosinophils, the functional role of C3a in the activation of eosinophils is, so far, poorly understood. Here, the activation of human eosinophils stimulated with C3a was analyzed and compared to C5a activation. Flow-cytometrical measurements revealed that stimulation of eosinophils by C3a resulted in a transient elevation of the intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, the production of reactive oxygen radical species (ROS) of eosinophils after C3a and C5a stimulation was measured by lucigenin-dependent chemiluminescence and quantified by superoxide dismutase-inhibitable reduction of ferricytochrome C. Half maximal and maximal ROS production in response to C3a was observed at 50 ng/ml and 1000 ng/ml, respectively, whereas C3a-desArg was inactive. To ensure that C3a stimulation was not caused by contamination with C5a, monoclonal antibodies were used to demonstrate the specificity of C3a. The effect of C3a was completely abolished in the presence of monovalent antigen-binding fragments of a functionally blocking anti-C3a monoclonal antibody. In addition, blockade of the C5a receptor by the monoclonal anti-C5a receptor antibody S5/1 totally inhibited the C5a-evoked ROS production, whereas the C3a response in the presence of S5/1 was unaffected. Finally, desensitization experiments revealed a homologous desensitization of C3a after restimulation with C3a. In contrast, no cross-desensitization was observed upon stimulation with C5a. Furthermore, the C3a- and C5a-induced production of ROS of eosinophils was totally inhibited by pertussis toxin, indicating the involvement of guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (Gi-proteins). In summary, these results demonstrate that C3a is a potent activator for eosinophils initiating transient [Ca2+]i changes and production of reactive oxygen species. C3a therefore may play a part in the pathophysiology of diseases with eosinophil and complement activation.