To investigate the role of complement protein factor B (Bf) and alternative pathway activity in vivo, and to test the hypothesized potential genetic lethal effect of Bf deficiency, the murine Bf gene was interrupted by exchange of exon 3 through exon 7 (including the factor D cleaving site) with the neo(r) gene. Mice heterozygous for the targeted Bf allele were interbred, yielding Bf-deficient offspring after the F1 generation at a frequency suggesting that Bf deficiency alone has no major effect on fertility or fetal development. However, in the context of one or more genes derived from the 129 mouse strain, offspring homozygous for Bf deficiency were generated at less than expected numbers (P = 0.012). Bf-deficient mice showed no gross phenotypic difference from wild-type littermates. Sera from Bf-deficient mice lacked detectable alternative complement pathway activity; purified mouse Bf overcame the deficit. Classical pathway-dependent total hemolytic activity was lower in Bf-deficient than wild-type mice, possibly reflecting loss of the alternative pathway amplification loop. Lymphoid organ structure and IgG1 antibody response to a T-dependent antigen appeared normal in Bf-deficient mice. Sensitivity to lethal endotoxic shock was not significantly altered in Bf-deficient mice. Thus, deficiency of Bf and alternative complement activation pathway led to a less dramatic phenotype than expected. Nevertheless, these mice provide an excellent model for the assessment of the role of Bf and the alternative pathway in host defense and other functions in vivo.