Candida albicans activates both the classical and alternative complement pathways. Previous studies found that immunoglobulin G (IgG) in normal human serum (NHS) mediates classical pathway initiation. The goal of this study was to determine the role of candidal mannan-specific human IgG antibodies in complement activation. Mannan was purified from the yeast cells, and naturally occurring antimannan IgG was isolated from pooled NHS or plasma samples by immunoaffinity chromatography. Early activation and binding of C3, characteristics of classical pathway activity, were abolished in yeast- or mannan-absorbed serum but could be restored to absorbed serum with added purified antimannan IgG in a dose-dependent manner. Microscopically, the immunofluorescence pattern of initial C3 binding was diffuse over the entire cell surface for yeast cells incubated in NHS or in mannan-absorbed NHS supplemented with antimannan IgG but was asynchronous and focal for yeast cells incubated in EGTA-treated or mannan-absorbed NHS. The antimannan IgG level in serum samples from 21 donors varied from 17 to 570 microg/ml of serum compared to 220 microg in pooled NHS samples. The rate of initial C3 binding to yeast cells correlated with the level of antimannan IgG in sera from different individuals (r2 = 0.94) and could be accelerated in sera containing lower amounts of antimannan IgG with exogenous antimannan IgG. These observations identify antimannan IgG as the initiator of classical pathway C3 deposition on C. albicans. Given the variability in the levels of antimannan antibodies in sera from different individuals, the presence or absence of these antibodies may be an important determinant of host resistance to disseminated candidiasis.