Renal disease is a common clinical manifestation of genetically determined deficiencies of the complement system in man. Like their human counterparts, dogs with a genetically determined complete deficiency of C3 also develop renal disease. Five of 20 C3-deficient dogs developed clinical evidence of renal failure. However, 14 of the 15 remaining dogs had histological evidence of type I membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis. The lesions were characterized by mesangial cell proliferation, an increase in the mesangial matrix, thickening of the glomerular capillary wall, electron-dense deposits in the mesangium and subendothelial space, and the presence of IgG and IgM. In order to determine the effect of treatment with C3 on the renal disease of C3-deficient dogs, two C3-deficient dogs were infused with normal canine plasma twice weekly for 3 weeks. Their urinary protein excretion rose progressively from less than 200 mg/24 hr to greater than 1000 mg/24 hr; renal function remained normal. Renal biopsies performed 1 week after the last infusion revealed more severe glomerulonephritis and the presence of C3. As controls, a C3-deficient dog was given C3-deficient canine plasma and a normal dog was given normal canine plasma; neither control animal developed proteinuria or changes in their renal biopsy. These observations suggest that renal disease may be more common in humans with complement deficiencies than would be suspected based on clinical assessment. Furthermore, these results suggest that treatment with complement-containing blood products may worsen preexisting renal disease in complement-deficient individuals.