The complement (C) regulatory proteins decay-accelerating factor (DAF, CD55)and membrane cofactor protein (MCP, CD46), which control C3 convertases, together with CD59, an inhibitor of the membrane attack complex (MAC), were found to be present in the developing human placenta from at least 6 weeks of gestation until term. Immunostaining revealed differences in the distribution of these proteins on the fetally derived trophoblast epithelium, especially in early placentae which contain trophoblast populations of diverse proliferative potential and differentiation status. Expression of all three proteins occurred on the terminally differentiated syncytiotrophoblast epithelium covering chorionic villi and which is in direct contact with maternal blood. CD59 was also expressed on the underlying villous cytotrophoblast cells and on their extra-villous derivatives. These two populations showeddifferential expression of the C3 convertase regulators. Villous cytotrophoblast cells expressed MCP but were largely devoid of DAF. Proliferation of this population to generate extra-villous cytotrophoblast cellcolumns was associated with both an increase in DAF expression and a decrease in MCP expression. Throughout placental development, expression of DAF appeared to be lower than that of MCP and CD59 as assessed by solid-phase binding assays on isolated trophoblast membranes. Early placentae were also found to contain both DAF+ and DAF− chorionic villi. Conversely, expression of CD59 appeared comparatively high and transcripts for CD59 were found to be much more abundant than those for DAF in purified trophoblast cells. C regulatory proteins appear to play an important role throughout gestation in protectingthe fetally derived human conceptus from maternal C. The differential expression patterns of the proteins on trophoblast may reflect differences in requirement for specific functional activities at different locations within the placenta.