Previous reports have suggested that Leishmania spp. interact with macrophages by binding to Mac-1 (CD11b/CD18), a member of the leukocyte integrin family. To better define this interaction, we tested the ability of leishmania promastigotes to bind to purified leukocyte integrins and to cloned integrins expressed in COS cells. We show that leishmania promastigotes bind to cellular or purified Mac-1 but not lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 in a specific, dose-dependent manner that requires the presence of serum. Binding is inhibited with specific monoclonal antibodies to Mac-1. In the absence of complement opsonization, three different species of leishmania tested fail to bind directly to any of the three leukocyte integrals. We show that binding to Mac-1 requires the third component of complement (C3). Organisms incubated in heat-inactivated serum or serum that has been immunologically depleted of C3 fail to bind to Mac-1. Because the addition of purified C3 to C3-depleted serum restores leishmania binding to Mac-1, we suggest that parasites gain entry into macrophages by fixing complement and subverting a well-characterized adhesive interaction in the immune system between Mac-1 and iC3b.