The activity of hemolytically inactive C5b67, designated iC5b67, was evaluated as an agonist for functional responses of human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN). C5b67 was formed from purified human complement components and decayed in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) until it had no lytic activity for sheep erythrocytes in a standard assay. iC5b67, at nanomolar concentrations, stimulated PMN chemotaxis and Ca2+ fluxes, but inhibited superoxide production and failed to upregulate CR1 and CR3. There was no significant contamination of the iC5b67 with C5a to explain these results. Neither isolated C5b6 nor C7 alone exhibited the activities of iC5b67, while insolubilized anti-C7 could remove the PMN agonist activity from the iC5b67 preparation. Binding studies to define a specific receptor for iC5b67 on PMN were hampered by the very hydrophobic nature of the ligand. 125I-iC5b67, by contrast to hemolytically active 125I-C5b67, was unable to insert in erythrocytes, suggesting that iC5b67 need not insert in the PMN membrane to induce signaling. Two lines of evidence suggest that iC5b67 and C5a and FMLP share common steps in intracellular signaling (1) pretreatment of PMN with iC5b67 deactivates PMN for C5a- and FMLP-induced chemotaxis; and (2) pretreatment of PMN with pertussis toxin inhibits iC5b67-induced chemotaxis. Thus, iC5b67 has important effects on the activity of PMN and G-proteins and Ca2+ are involved in the signaling.