Mice bearing a disrupted C3 locus (C3-/-) have an impaired Ab response to T-dependent Ags (bacteriophage phiX 174 and nuclear protein-keyhole limpet hemocyanin) characterized by a reduction in number and size of germinal centers and impaired retention of Ag by follicular dendritic cells. To test the importance of C3 synthesized locally within the lymphoid compartment during an immune response to T-dependent Ag, we reconstituted C3-/- mice with wild-type bone marrow of MHC-identical littermates. Engraftment not only restored local C3 synthesis in the spleen, but also rescued the impaired humoral response. The major source of C3 mRNA was MOMA-2+ macrophages localized within the white pulp areas of the spleen. Interestingly, C3 expression is apparently regulated as C3 mRNA was not detected in splenic sections of nonimmune mice. Furthermore, local C3 synthesis by donor macrophages reversed the impaired Ag trapping by splenic follicular dendritic cells in C3-deficient mice.