Complement factor 3 (C3) phenotype and allele frequencies were defined in 312 patients with Type 1 diabetes (IDDM), 256 patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), 114 apparently healthy first-degree relatives of Type 1 diabetics, in 10 families (29 members) with a familial history of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and 512 controls (blood donors). All persons investigated were Europeans. There is no evidence to suggest that genes linked to C3 influence susceptibility to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and to their late complications. C3 levels in blood plasma were found to be slightly elevated in both types of diabetes. But the C3 concentrations varied considerably within the groups. C3 split products were demonstrable in a high percentage in the blood plasma of freshly manifested Type 1 diabetic persons as well as in Type 1 diabetics with a duration of the disease of 1 to 3 years. C3 proteolysis could also be found in plasma of Type 2 diabetics (26%).