We have postulated a role for activated plasma complement and for stimulated granulocytes in the triggering events of the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Because brief periods of complement activation have proved to be pale mimics of the clinical syndrome, we extended our earlier models by infusing potently activated plasma complement into rabbits over a prolonged period of time (3 h). The expected leukostasis occurred, but pulmonary dysfunction remained modest. Nonetheless, piecemeal microvascular necrosis did develop, rendering this current model more credible than former models as a mimic of triggering events in ARDS; longer-term follow-up of such animals will be necessary to determine if this is indeed the case. Perhaps of even greater interest, the neutrophilic leukostasis was observed to progress over the 3 h to a predominantly lymphocytic leukostasis, a dramatically more rapid progression than is typical of such immune complex diseases as serum sickness and the Arthus reaction; further studies are in progress to elucidate the mechanism of this lymphostasis.