A key attribute of invasive Streptococcus pyogenes is their ability to resist phagocytosis and multiply in human blood. M-related protein (Mrp) is a major anti-phagocytic factor but the mechanism whereby it helps streptococci to evade phagocytosis has not been demonstrated. We investigated phagocytosis resistance in a strain of serotype M4 by inactivating the mrp gene and also the emm, enn, sof and sfbX genes and by analysing the effect on streptococcal growth in blood and on complement deposition on the bacterial surface. Inactivation of enn4 and sfbX4 had little impact on growth in blood, but ablation of mrp4, emm4 or sof4 reduced streptococcal growth in human blood, confirming that Mrp and Emm are required for optimal resistance to phagocytosis and providing the first indication that Sof may be an anti-phagocytic factor. Moreover, antisera against Mrp4, Emm4 and Sof4 promoted the killing of S. pyogenes, but anti-SfbX serum had no effect. Growth of S. pyogenes in blood was dependent on the presence of fibrinogen and in the absence of fibrinogen there was a twofold increase in complement deposition. Inactivation of mrp4 resulted in a loss of fibrinogen-binding and caused a twofold increase in the binding of C3b that was inhibited by Mg-EGTA. Mrp contained two fibrinogen-binding sites, one of which is within a highly conserved region. These findings indicate that Mrp-fibrinogen interactions prevent surface deposition of complement via the classical pathway, thereby contributing to the ability of these streptococci to resist phagocytosis. This may be a common mechanism for evasion of phagocytosis because Mrp is expressed by approximately half of the clinical isolates of S. pyogenes.