Arrestins selectively bind to phosphorylated activated forms of their cognate G protein-coupled receptors. Arrestin binding prevents further G protein activation and often redirects signaling to other pathways. The comparison of the high-resolution crystal structures of arrestin2, visual arrestin, and rhodopsin as well as earlier mutagenesis and peptide inhibition data collectively suggest that the elements on the concave sides of both arrestin domains most likely participate in receptor binding directly, thereby dictating its receptor preference. Using comparative binding of visual arrestin/arrestin2 chimeras to the preferred target of visual arrestin, light-activated phosphorylated rhodopsin (PRh*), and to the arrestin2 target, phosphorylated activated m2 muscarinic receptor (P-m2 mAChR*), we identified the elements that determine the receptor specificity of arrestins. We found that residues 49-90 (beta-strands V and VI and adjacent loops in the N-domain) and 237-268 (beta-strands XV and XVI in the C-domain) in visual arrestin and homologous regions in arrestin2 are largely responsible for their receptor preference. Only 35 amino acids (22 of which are nonconservative substitutions) in the two elements are different. Simultaneous exchange of both elements between visual arrestin and arrestin2 fully reverses their receptor specificity, demonstrating that these two elements in the two domains of arrestin are necessary and sufficient to determine their preferred receptor targets.