Analysis of complement deficiency states has supported the role of complement in host defense and elucidated diseases associated with defective complement function. Although neisserial infection plays a prominent role in these deficiency states, examination of individuals with late complement component deficiency (LCCD) reveals a particular propensity for recurrent meningococcal disease and provides important clues to the role of complement in neisserial infections. In response to meningococcal disease, LCCD individuals produce significantly greater amounts of antilipooligosaccharide (LOS) antibody which can kill group B meningococcus in a complement-sufficient in vitro system. Further studies of antibody cross-reactivity to other meningococci has led to a clearer understanding of its epitopic specificity. Nevertheless, epidemiologic evidence is consistent with the relative absence of protective immunity in LCCD persons following an episode of infection and supported by quantitation of antibody to capsular polysaccharide. However, compared to anti-LOS antibodies, anticapsular antibodies can offer immune protection to LCCD individuals via complement-dependent opsonophagocytosis--the only form of complement-mediated killing available to these persons. Thus vaccination of LCCD persons with capsular antigens is considered an important means of protecting these high-risk individuals against meningococcal disease.