Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi), the agent of Chagas' disease, the sixth most important neglected tropical disease worldwide, causes 50,000 deaths per year in Latin America. T. cruzi calreticulin (TcCRT), a highly pleiotropic chaperone molecule, plays important roles in several host/parasite interactions. Among other functions, we have previously shown that TcCRT, translocated from the endoplasmic reticulum to the area of flagellar emergence, binds human C1q and inhibits activation of the classical pathway in vitro. Based on a series of in vitro experiments, we propose here two mechanisms to explain how TcCRT inhibits the classical pathway at the initial stages of C1 (q, r, s) activation. First, TcCRT interacts in vitro with both solid phase bound active C1s and C1, but impairment of C4 activating capacity is evident only when the serine proteases are within the structural context of the macromolecular first component. Although C1s activity, in this context, is inhibited by TcCRT, the serine protease is not displaced from the C1 complex. Second, TcCRT prevents C1 formation, by interfering with the ability of the (C1r-C1s)(2) tetramer to bind C1q. These complement inhibitory effects are better explained by direct interaction of the parasite protein with C1, rather than by the TcCRT capacity to bind calcium, an essential element for the functional integrity of C1.