DAF is a 70,000-Mr membrane protein that inhibits the amplification of the complement cascade on the cell surface, and protects cells from damage by complement. The precise mechanism of action of DAF is not entirely clear. Purified DAF was incorporated into the membrane of EAC4b cells. EAC4b2 and EDAF AC4b2 cells were prepared with radiolabeled C2. The same amount of labeled C2 bound to both cells, showing that DAF does not prevent the binding of C2 zymogen to C4b. After adding Cl, the radioactivity of bound C2 dissociated more rapidly from EDAF AC4b cells than from EAC4b cells. In EAC4b cells, bound C2 was converted to C2a, which gradually dissociated into the supernatants. In the DAF-treated cells, on the other hand, a large amount of C2a rapidly appeared in the supernatants and only a small amount of C2a remained on the cells. In a similar experiment using EhuAC4b, DAF on human erythrocyte membrane also dissociated the C2a from the cells. These results were confirmed by hemolytic assay and the accelerated decay of C2a caused the rapid depletion of C2 from the fluid phase. In addition, we found that DAF functions on the alternative pathway C3 convertase, C3bBb in the same manner. Thus, DAF, which associates with C4b and C3b in the membrane, acts on C2a and Bb, but not on intact C2 and B, and dissociates them rapidly from the binding sites, thereby preventing the assembly of the classical and alternative pathways C3 convertases.