The cyclic C5a receptor antagonist, phenylalanine [L-ornithine-proline-D-cyclohexylalanine-tryptophan-arginine] (F-[OPchaWR]), has approximately 1000-fold less affinity for the C5a receptor (C5aR) on murine polymorphonuclear leukocytes than on human. Analysis of C5aR from different species shows that a possible cause of this difference is the variation in the sequence of the first extracellular loop of the receptor. The mouse receptor contains Y at a position analogous to P(103) in the human receptor, and D at G(105). To test this hypothesis, we expressed human C5aR mutants (P(103)Y, G(105)D and the double mutant, P(103)Y/G(105)D) in RBL-2H3 cells and investigated the effects of these mutations on binding affinity and receptor activation. All three mutant receptors had a higher affinity for human C5a than the wild-type receptor, but showed no significant difference in the ability of F-[OPchaWR] to inhibit human C5a binding. However, all of the mutant receptors had substantially lower affinities for the weak agonist, C5a des Arg(74) (C5adR(74)), and two altered receptors (G(105)D and P(103)Y/G(105)D) had much lower affinities for the C-terminal C5a agonist peptide analogue, L-tyrosine-serine-phenylalanine-lysine-proline-methionine-proline-leucine-D-alanine-arginine (YSFKPMPLaR). Although it is unlikely that differences at these residues are responsible for variations in the potency of F-[OPchaWR] across species, residues in the first extracellular loop are clearly involved in the recognition of both C5a and C5a agonists. The complex effects of mutating these residues on the affinity and response to C5a, C5adR(74), and the peptide analogues provide evidence of different binding modes for these ligands on the C5aR.