Inhibition of free movement of C3 receptors by either applying low temperature (3 degrees C) or fixing the cell surfce of lymphocytes with glutaraldehyde (2 times 10(-5) to 2 times 10(-1)%) results in loss of firm attachment of EAC142 3b cells to the lympocytes as demonstrated here by loss of rosette formation of Raji lymphoid cells. Under the same conditions soluble C3 can still bind but is unable to induce aggregation of C3 receptors into small patches. It is suggested that the local increase of C3 receptor density by aggregation is a prerequisite for C3-dependent cytoadherence. Microaggregation of corresponding receptor sites may be essential also in other recognition systems.