alpha-Agglutinin is a cell adhesion glycoprotein expressed on the cell wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae alpha cells. Binding of alpha-agglutinin to its ligand a-agglutinin, expressed by a cells, mediates cell-cell contact during mating. Analysis of truncations of the 650-amino-acid alpha-agglutinin structural gene AG alpha 1 delineated functional domains of alpha-agglutinin. Removal of the C-terminal hydrophobic sequence allowed efficient secretion of the protein and loss of cell surface attachment. This cell surface anchorage domain was necessary for linkage to a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor. A construct expressing the N-terminal 350 amino acid residues retained full a-agglutinin-binding activity, localizing the binding domain to the N-terminal portion of alpha-agglutinin. A 278-residue N-terminal peptide was inactive; therefore, the binding domain includes residues between 278 and 350. The segment of alpha-agglutinin between amino acid residues 217 and 308 showed significant structural and sequence similarity to a consensus sequence for immunoglobulin superfamily variable-type domains. The similarity of the alpha-agglutinin-binding domain to mammalian cell adhesion proteins suggests that this structure is a highly conserved feature of adhesion proteins in diverse eukaryotes.