Normal human serum and urine were found to contain a low molecular weight complement inhibitor (LMWI). LMWI was separated from serum by dialysis in membrane tubing or through an Amicon PM10, and then concentrated on an Amicon UM05 membrane. On Bio-Gel P-2 filtration, LMWI was eluted just after the column calibration marker, stachyose hydrate (6666 . 6 daltons), and was estimated to be 500 daltons. Both pathways of complement activation were susceptible to modulation by LMWI. Addition of LMWI reduced the haemolysis of sheep erythrocytes sensitized with antibody, rabbit erythrocytes and guinea-pig erythrocytes bearing human C3 and C4. Formation of EAC142 from EAC14 and guinea-pig C2 was blocked, indicating a failure to generate the classical pathway C3 convertase: however, the lysis of preformed EAC142 was not suppressed. Conversion of factor B and C3 did not occur when LMWI was present during zymosan activation of serum. This indicates that the inhibitor either prevented, or acted at a step prior to, the cleavage of factor B by factor D. LMWI did not prevent formation of erythrocyte C567 intermediates nor their subsequent lysis by C8 and C9. Thus, serum contains a 500-dalton inhibitor which modulates the activities of both complement pathways at an early step in each of the activation sequences. LMWI may serve as a regulator of the inflammatory process by suppressing C3 convertase formation and generation of complement-derived, biologically reactive molecules.