The scavenger receptor, class B, type I (SR-BI) binds high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and mediates selective delivery of cholesteryl esters (CEs) to the liver and steroidogenic cells of the adrenal and gonads. Although it is clear that the large extracellular domain (ECD) of SR-BI binds HDL, the role of ECD in the selective HDL-CE transport remains poorly understood. In this study, we used a combination of mutational and chemical approaches to systematically evaluate the contribution of cysteine residues, especially six cysteine residues of ECD, in SR-BI-mediated selective HDL-CE uptake, intracellular trafficking and SR-BI dimerization. Pretreatment of SR-BI overexpressing COS-7 cells with disulfide (S-S) bond reducing agent, β-mercaptoethanol (100 mM) or dithiothreitol (DTT) (10 mM) modestly, but significantly impaired the SR-BI mediated selective HDL-CE uptake. Treatment of SR-BI overexpressing COS-7 cells with the optimum doses of membrane permeant alkyl methanethiosulfonate (MTS) reagents, positively charged MTSEA or neutral MMTS that specifically react with the free sulfhydryl group of cysteine reduced the SR-BI-mediated selective HDL-CE uptake, indicating that certain intracellular free cysteine residues may also be critically involved in the selective cholesterol transport process. In contrast, use of membrane impermeant MTS reagent, positively charged MTSET and negatively charged MTSES showed no such effect. Next, the importance of eight cysteine residues in SR-BI expression, cell surface expression, dimer formation and selective HDL-derived CE transport was evaluated. These cysteine residues were replaced either singly or in pairs with serine and the mutant SR-BIs expressed in either COS-7 or CHO cells. Four mutations, C280S, C321S, C323S or C334S of the ECD, either singly or in various pair combinations, resulted in significant decreases in SR-BI (HDL) binding activity, selective-CE uptake, and trafficking to cell surface. Surprisingly, we found that mutation of the two remaining cysteine residues, C251 and C384 of the ECD, had no effect on either SR-BI expression or function. Other cysteine mutations and substitutions were also without any effect. Western blot data indicated that single and double mutants of C280, C321, C323 and C334 residues strongly favor dimer formation. However, they are rendered non-functional presumably due to mutation-induced formation of aberrant disulfide linkages resulting in inhibition of optimal HDL binding and, thus, selective HDL-CE uptake. These results provide novel insights about the functional role of four cysteine residues, C280, C321, C323 and C334 of SR-BI ECD domain in SR-BI expression and trafficking to cell surface, its dimerization, and associated selective CE transport function.