Coronaviruses, like many animal viruses, are characterized by a restricted host range and tissue tropism. Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), a major pathogen causing a fatal diarrhoea in newborn pig, replicates selectively in the differentiated enterocytes covering the villi of the small intestine. To investigate the molecular determinants of the infection, we characterized the surface molecule used by the virus for binding and entry into host cells. Here we report that aminopeptidase N, an ectoenzyme abundantly expressed at the apical membrane of the enterocytes, serves as a receptor for TGEV. Monoclonal antibodies were selected for their ability to block infection by TGEV of porcine cell lines. They recognized a brush-border membrane protein of M(r) 150K, which was identified as aminopeptidase N by amino-terminal sequencing. Two lines of evidence supported the view that the peptidase itself acts as a receptor. First, virions bound specifically to aminopeptidase N that was purified to homogeneity. Second, recombinant expression of aminopeptidase N conferred infectivity by TGEV to an otherwise non-permissive cell line.