Mutation of Asp(2.61(98)) at the extracellular boundary of transmembrane helix 2 of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor decreased the affinity for GnRH. Using site-directed mutagenesis, ligand modification, and computational modeling, different side chain interactions of Asp(2.61(98)) that contribute to high-affinity binding were investigated. The conservative Asp(2. 61(98))Glu mutation markedly decreased the affinity for a series of GnRH analogues containing the native His(2) residue. This mutant showed smaller decreases in affinity for His(2)-substituted ligands. The loss of preference for His(2)-containing ligands in the mutant receptor shows that Asp(2.61(98)) determines the specificity for His(2). Analysis of the affinities of a series of position 2-substituted ligands suggests that a hydrogen bond forms between Asp(2.61(98)) and the delta NH group of His(2) and that Asp(2. 61(98)) forms a second hydrogen bond with the ligand. Substitution of Asp(2.61(98)) with an uncharged residue further decreased the affinity for all ligands and also decreased receptor expression. Computational modeling indicates an intramolecular ionic interaction of Asp(2.61(98)) with Lys(3.32(121)) in transmembrane helix 3. The uncharged, Lys(3.32(121))Gln mutation also markedly decreased agonist affinity. The modeling and the similar phenotypes of mutants with uncharged substitutions for Asp(2.61(98)) or Lys(3.32(121)) are consistent with the presence of this helix 2-helix 3 interaction. These studies support a dual role for Asp(2.61(98)): formation of an interhelical interaction with Lys(3.32(121)) that contributes to the structure of the agonist binding pocket and an interaction with His(2) of GnRH that helps stabilize agonist complexing.