We analyzed the binding of sheep erythrocytes bearing C3b (EC3b) to cells transfected with human complement receptors. EC3b bound avidly to cells expressing CR1 but failed to bind to cells expressing CR3. In the presence of factor I, the binding of EC3b, to CR1 was transient. Primary monocytes and cotransfected cells expressing both CR1 and CR3 mediated a stable resetting of EC3b, even in the prolonged presence of factor I. This stable adhesion was dependent on the presence of CR3, because blocking CR3 with mAb resulted in the factor I-dependent release of erythrocytes from these cells. A model is proposed in which these two complement receptors cooperate in a unique manner. These results suggest that the stable adhesion of complement-opsonized particles to cells expressing CR1 and CR3 is actually a dynamic molecular process in which an important function of leukocyte CR1 is to generate the ligands for CR3.