The complement systems of fish are well developed and play an important role in the innate immune response. Complement C3 is the central protein of all three activation pathways and is the major opsonin of the complement system and essential for the generation of the membrane attack complex. A 1548 bp part of complement component C3 was isolated from a halibut liver cDNA library by immunoscreening. The deduced amino acid sequence showed that this part of halibut C3 contained key amino acids for factor H, I and properdin binding as well as two N-glycosylation sites. Digoxigenine labelled mRNA probes were synthesised and the transcription of C3 was monitored in three larval stages at 206, 430 and 1000° d (30, 50 and 99 days post hatching), by in situ hybridisation. C3 mRNA was detected in muscle, liver, brain, chondrocytes, spinal cord, eye, intestines, oesophagus and kidney. These findings are in accordance with a former immunohistochemical study on halibut C3 protein ontogeny, indicating that C3 is indeed locally expressed in many organs from the youngest stages on. Complement may thus be linked to the formation and generation of different organs during development and play an important role in the early immune response of halibut larvae.