The vitamin K-dependent (VKD) carboxylase converts clusters of Glu residues to gamma-carboxylated Glu residues (Glas) in VKD proteins, which is required for their activity. VKD precursors are targeted to the carboxylase by their carboxylase recognition site, which in most cases is a propeptide. We have identified a second tethering site for carboxylase and VKD proteins that is required for carboxylase activity, called the vitamin K-dependent protein site of interaction (VKS). Several VKD proteins specifically bound an immobilized peptide comprising amino acids 343-355 of the human carboxylase (CVYKRSRGKSGQK) but not a scrambled peptide containing the same residues in a different order. Association with the 343-355 peptide was independent of propeptide binding, because the VKD proteins lacked the propeptide and because the 343-355 peptide did not disrupt association of a propeptide factor IX-carboxylase complex. Analysis with peptides that overlapped amino acids 343-355 indicated that the 343-345 CVY residues were necessary but not sufficient for prothrombin binding. Ionic interactions were also suggested because peptide-VKD protein binding could be disrupted by changes in ionic strength or pH. Mutagenesis of Cys(343) to Ser and Tyr(345) to Phe resulted in 7-11-fold decreases in vitamin K epoxidation and peptide (EEL) substrate and carboxylase carboxylation, and kinetic analysis showed 5-6-fold increases in K(m) values for the Glu substrate. These results suggest that Cys(343) and Tyr(345) are near the catalytic center and affect the active site conformation required for correct positioning of the Glu substrate. The 343-355 VKS peptide had a higher affinity for carboxylated prothrombin (K(d) = 5 microm) than uncarboxylated prothrombin (K(d) = 60 microm), and the basic VKS region may also facilitate exiting of the Gla product from the catalytic center by ionic attraction. Tethering of VKD proteins to the carboxylase via the propeptide-binding site and the VKS region has important implications for the mechanism of VKD protein carboxylation, and a model is proposed for how the carboxylase VKS region may be required for efficient and processive VKD protein carboxylation.