The question of whether cells bearing complement receptors (CR) mediate cytotoxicity in vitro against allogeneic Chang liver cell targets was investigated by assessing peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from normal humans for cell surface characteristics and cytotoxic capacity before and after depletion of CR+ cells capable of forming rosettes with sheep erythrocytes coated with 19S antibody and mouse complement (EAC) and depletion of Fc receptor-bearing cells capable of forming rosettes with human O+ erythrocytes coated with Ripley antibody (EA-Ripley). PBMC depleted of CR+ cells by density centrifugation contained markedly reduced proportions of phagocytes and sIg + cells and increased proportions of both sIg -, FcR+ cells as well as cells forming rosettes with sheep erythrocytes (E). PBMC depleted of CR+ cells mediated cytotoxicity to an extent equal to or greater than that mediated by unfractionated PBMC in assays of spontaneous cell-mediated cytotoxicity (SCMC), antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), and mitogen-induced cellular cytotoxicity (MICC). Cells harvested from the EAC-rosette enriched pellet mediated cytotoxicity 5- to 10-fold less than unfractionated PBMC; however, the cytotoxic activity of the pellet could not be attributed to CR + effector cells since similar cytotoxic activity was present in cell pellets obtained by density centrifugation of PBMC which had been incubated with E coated with 19S antibody or E alone. PBMC depleted of EA-Ripley rosette-forming cells contained decreased proportions of sIg-, FcR+ cells and increased proportions of CR+ cells; PBMC so depleted contained virtually no SCMC and ADCC effector cell activity. These findings indicate that at least the majority of effector cells which mediate SCMC, ADCC, and MICC do not bear CR.