Previous studies have suggested that the residues 727-768 of human (Hu) C3 contain the binding sites for CR1, factor H, and factor B. Here, we have (1) characterized further some of the C3 structural requirements for its binding to CR1, H, and B, (2) investigated the functions associated with these C3-ligand interactions, and (3) studied the relationship of MCP-binding sites in C3 with those for CR1, H, and B. Hu C3 molecules in which residues 727-768 were deleted (designated C3delta727-768) or substituted with the corresponding segment of cobra venom factor, Xenopus, or trout C3 (chimeric C3s) were expressed in the baculovirus system and analyzed for their reactivity with C3-binding proteins. In contrast to wild-type iC3 which, in the presence of CR1, is cleaved by factor I to iC3b-a and C3c-a and C3dg, all chimeric C3s were cleaved only to iC3b-a. In addition, the cleavage of deleted (C3delta727-768) iC3 to iC3b-a by factor I in the presence of CR1 was significantly reduced, whereas it remained unaltered in the presence of MCP. Cleavage of iC3 to iC3b-a by factor I and H was similar in all expressed C3s except C3delta727-768, whose cleavage was significantly reduced. All of the expressed molecules except C3delta727-768 were capable of forming the fluid-phase alternative pathway C3 convertase, and all reacted with properdin. These results suggest that during cleavage of iC3 by factor I and CR1, or H, CR1 and H bind to at least two sites on C3 and that the MCP binding site(s) on C3b are different from those for CR1. They also indicate that some or all of the C3 residues that are directly involved in, or contribute to, the structure of one of the CR1 and H binding sites are located within residues 727-768. These studies also demonstrate that, although this segment of C3 may be involved in C3-factor B interaction, other residues in addition to 736EE (previously implicated in B binding) must also contribute significantly to this interaction.