Background. Discordant islet xenografts are immediately nonfunctional in nonimmunosuppressed recipients other than the mouse, a process called primary nonfunction. Although at present it is unknown whether complement is involved, complement might participate in the induction of primary nonfunction through a number of mechanisms. We investigated the potential role of the membrane attack complex of complement in primary nonfunction of transplanted xenoislets. Methods. Canine islets were transplanted into both nonimmunosuppressed and immunosuppressed normocomplementemic and C6-deficient (C6D) PVG rats. Cyclosporine, rapamycin, deoxyspergualin, and mycophenolate mofetil were used for immunosuppression from day -3 to cessation of islet cell function. Serum glucose was measured at 6 hr after transplant and daily thereafter. Xenograft tissue sections were obtained at various times after transplant and stained for inflammatory cells and insulin. Results. Canine islets grafted in nonimmunosuppressed C6D rats and normocomplementemic rats underwent primary nonfunction in all animals. The incidence of primary nonfunction in animals receiving a four-drug immunosuppressive regimen was 33% in the normocomplementemic rats but only 10% in the C6D rats. The mean functional islet survival time was 1.57±0.33 days in the normocomplementemic group and 2.70±0.67 days in the C6D group (P=0.38). The islet xenografts showed little difference in degree and composition of cell infiltration between normocomplementemic and C6D rats. Conclusion. The membrane attack complex does not appear to play a major role in primary nonfunction of canine islet xenografts in nonimmunosuppressed PVG rats. However, there was a lower incidence of primary nonfunction and a longer posttransplant survival time in immunosuppressed C6D rats, suggesting the membrane attack complex may play a minor role in recipients that are heavily immunosuppressed.