A real-time PCR assay for determination of the complement response to infection with the ectoparasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis in carp is presented. Specific primers were designed for selected genes representing the three pathways of the carp complement system. The investigated complement molecules were C1r/s, C3, C4, C5, factor I, factor B/C2-A (Bf/C2-A), mannose-binding lectin (MBL) and MBL-associated serine protease (MASP). The expression of the selected genes was analyzed on RNA extracts from skin, liver, and whole blood from carp at 3, 12, 24, 36, and 48 It post-infection (pi) with I. multifiliis. A pronounced up-regulation of Bf/C2-A, in skin, blood, and liver (250-, 60-, and 4-fold respectively), was observed at later sampling points pi (24-48 h). In addition, an intermediate (from 5 to 13-fold) down-regulation of MASP was observed in skin and liver samples at 36 and 48 h pi with respect to control fish. MBL was expressed only in liver and no variation in the transcription level of this lectin was observed. Complement factor C3 was significantly up-regulated in liver (4-fold up-regulation, 24 h pi). The presented results indicate that infection with the parasite I. multifiliis in carp to a large extent stimulates the expression of complement molecules. Moreover, the dramatic and early up-regulation of Bf/C2-A in skin indicates a role of this molecule as an acute-phase reactant. Furthermore, our study confirms the role of fish skin as an important extra-hepatic site of expression of complement molecules as well as an active regulator of complement expression. Expression of some of the components of the complement system in blood suggests that leukocytes in carp act as an important extra-hepatic source of complement molecules. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.