Mannan binding lectin (MBL)-associated serine protease type 1 (MASP-1) has a central role in the lectin pathway of complement activation and is required for the formation of C3 convertase. The activity of MASP-1 in the peripheral blood has been identified previously as a highly significant predictor of the severity of liver fibrosis in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but not in liver disease of other aetiologies. In this study we tested the hypotheses that expression of MASP-1 may promote disease progression in HCV disease by direct activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and may additionally be up-regulated by HCV. In order to do so, we utilized a model for the maintenance of primary human HSC in the quiescent state by culture on basement membrane substrate prior to stimulation. In comparison to controls, recombinant MASP-1 stimulated quiescent human HSCs to differentiate to the activated state as assessed by both morphology and up-regulation of HSC activation markers α-smooth muscle actin and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1. Further, the expression of MASP-1 was up-regulated significantly by HCV infection in hepatocyte cell lines. These observations suggest a new role for MASP-1 and provide a possible mechanistic link between high levels of MASP-1 and the severity of disease in HCV infection. Taken together with previous clinical observations, our new findings suggest that the balance of MASP-1 activity may be proinflammatory and act to accelerate fibrosis progression in HCV liver disease.