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The complement system is an ancient and evolutionarily conserved effector system comprising in mammals over fifty circulating and membrane bound proteins. Complement has long been described as belonging to the innate immune system; however, a number of recent studies have demonstrated its key role in the modulation of the adaptive immune response. This review does not set out to be an exhaustive list of the numerous interactions of the many complement components with adaptive immunity; rather, we will focus more precisely on the role of some complement molecules in the regulation of antigen presenting cells, as well as on their direct effect on the activation of the core adaptive immune cells, B and T lymphocytes. Recent reports on the local production and activation of complement proteins also suggest a major role in the control of effector responses. The crucial role of complement in adaptive immunity is further highlighted by several examples of dysregulation of these pathways in human diseases.