An ELISA was used to measure the fluid-phase complement complex in the plasma of 54 patients with insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes mellitus. Sixty-seven per cent of the diabetic patients had increased levels of SC5b-9. In individual diabetic patients, increased SC5b-9 was found to be significantly associated with the occurrence of anti-heparan sulphate cross-reactive anti-ssDNA antibodies and in some cases with circulating immune complexes. There was a significant correlation between levels of SC5b-9 and those of urinary albumin excretion rate (AER) (r = 0.39, P less than 0.01). Levels of AER were 8.4 +/- 2.26 micrograms/min and 2.04 +/- 0.35 micrograms/min in the SC5b-9 positive and negative patients, respectively (P less than 0.01). A relationship was also found between SC5b-9 and plasma von Willebrand Factor (r = 0.45, P less than 0.02), von Willebrand factor was 189.2 +/- 19.3% and 132.3 +/- 19.6% in SC5b-9 positive and negative patients, respectively (P less than 0.05). It may be that the abnormalities found in this study play a role in the pathogenesis of the late diabetic vascular complications.