The aims of the study were to compare the pathogenesis of Candida albicans infection in various organs and anatomical regions of C5-deficient (DBA/2) and C5-sufficient (BALB/c) mice, and to evaluate the importance of complement C5 and T lymphocytes as factors that determine host susceptibility or resistance. The kidneys of DBA/2 mice showed higher colonisation and more severe tissue damage than those of BALB/c, but infection at other sites, including oral and vaginal mucosa, was generally similar in the two strains. Passive transfer of C5-sufficient serum into DBA/2 mice decreased the fungal burden in the kidney, and prolonged survival of the reconstituted animals. Depletion of CD4(+) and/or CD8(+) cells did not exacerbate either systemic or mucosal infection when compared to controls, and passive transfer of splenocytes from infected donors caused only a small and transient reduction in numbers of yeasts recovered from the kidney of sub-lethally infected recipients. It is concluded that the acute susceptibility of the kidneys in this mouse strain is due to C5 deficiency expressed on a susceptible genetic background. T lymphocytes, however, appear to have minimal influence on recovery from systemic infection with this isolate of C. albicans. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.