Cutaneous lesions induced by infection of mice with the protozoan parasite, Leishmania mexicana, contain abundant amounts of a high molecular mass proteophosphoglycan (PPG), which is secreted by the amastigote stage residing in phagolysosomes of macrophages and can then be released into the tissue upon rupture of the infected cells. Amastigote PPG forms sausage-shaped but soluble particles and belongs to a novel class of serine-rich proteins that are extensively O-glycosylated by phosphooligosaccharides capped by mannooligosaccharides. The purified molecule is shown here to efficiently activate complement (C) and deplete hemolytic activity of normal serum and may prevent the opsonization of L. mexicana amastigotes. Complement activation is Ca2+ dependent but does not depend on antibodies or the complement component C1. PPG binds to serum mannan binding protein (MBP), thus activating the MBP-associated serine protease, P100. Subsequently, the C cascade is triggered through C4 leading to covalent modification probably of carbohydrate hydroxyls of PPG by C3 fragments. Thus, PPG is able to activate C via the mannan binding lectin pathway which is unusual for secreted, soluble products of microbial origin. The proteophosphoglycan-induced complement activation is postulated to contribute to the lesion development and pathology caused by the parasite.