Biological activities of C3 beta c, which is a C-terminal fragment of the beta-chain of rat complement C3, have been studied by in vivo and in vitro experiments. C3 beta c was purified as a novel neutrophil chemoattractant from the exudate of the chronic phase of rat carrageenin-induced inflammation. The purified C3 beta c induced neutrophil chemotaxis in vivo when C3 beta c was injected into the preformed air-pouch on the back of rats. C3 beta c transiently increased the intracellular free Ca2+ concentration of neutrophils and enhanced the adhesion of neutrophils to fibrinogen in vitro, suggesting that C3 beta c has the ability to express an adhesion molecule of rat neutrophils. In addition, C3 beta c at low concentrations (10(-10)-10(-11) M) stimulated rat macrophages to produce cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant-2, a member of the interleukin-8 family. Furthermore, C3 beta c enhanced vascular permeability in vivo, which is suppressed by cyproheptadine, suggesting that C3 beta c may have the characteristics of an anaphylatoxin. Our results suggest that C3 beta c contributes to oedema formation and neutrophil accumulation at inflammatory sites in rats.