Notch1 is a member of a conserved family of large modular type 1 transmembrane receptors that control differentiation in multicellular animals. Notch function is mediated through a novel signal transduction pathway involving successive ligand-induced proteolytic cleavages that serve to release the intracellular domain of Notch, which then translocates to the nucleus and activates downstream transcription factors. The extracellular domain of all Notch receptors have three iterated LIN-12 modules that appear to act as negative regulatory domains, possibly by limiting proteolysis. Each LIN-12 module contains three disulfide bonds and three conserved aspartate (D) or asparagine (N) residues. To begin to understand the structural basis for LIN-12 function, the first LIN-12 module of human Notch1 (rLIN-12.1) has been expressed recombinantly in Escherichia coli and purified in a reduced form. In redox buffers, rLIN-12.1 forms only one disulfide isomer in the presence of millimolar Ca2+ concentrations, whereas multiple disulfide isomers are observed in the presence of Mg2+ and EDTA. Further, mutation of conserved residues N1460, D1475, and D1478 to alanine abolishes Ca2+-dependent folding of this module. Mass spectrometric analysis of partially reduced rLIN-12.1 has been used to deduce that disulfide bonds are formed between the first and fifth (C1449-C1472), second and fourth (C1454-C1467), and third and sixth (C1463-C1479) cysteines of this prototype module. This arrangement is distinct from that observed in other modules, such as EGF and LDL-A, that also contain three disulfide bonds. One-dimensional proton nuclear magnetic resonance shows that Ca2+ induces a dramatic increase in the extent of chemical shift dispersion of the native rLIN-12.1 amide protons, as seen for the Ca2+-binding LDL-A modules. We conclude that Ca2+ is required both for proper folding and for the maintenance of the structural integrity of Notch/LIN-12 modules.