The recently identified lectin pathway of the complement system, initiated by binding of mannan-binding lectin (MBL) to its ligands, is a key component of innate immunity. MBL-deficient individuals show an increased susceptibility for infections, especially of the mucosal system. We examined whether IgA, an important mediator of mucosal immunity, activates the complement system via the lectin pathway. Our results indicate a dose-dependent binding of MBL to polymeric, but not monomeric IgA coated in microtiter plates. This interaction involves the carbohydrate recognition domain of MBL, because it was calcium dependent and inhibited by mannose and by mAb against this domain of MBL. Binding of MBL to IgA induces complement activation, as demonstrated by a dose-dependent deposition of C4 and C3 upon addition of a complement source. The MBL concentrations required for IgA-induced C4 and C3 activation are well below the normal MBL plasma concentrations. In line with these experiments, serum from individuals having mutations in the MBL gene showed significantly less activation of C4 by IgA and mannan than serum from wild-type individuals. We conclude that MBL binding to IgA results in complement activation, which is proposed to lead to a synergistic action of MBL and IgA in antimicrobial defense. Furthermore, our results may explain glomerular complement deposition in IgA nephropathy.