The crystal packing of the extracellular hormone binding domain of the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) receptor contains two possible dimer pairs, the head-to-head (hh) and tail-to-tail (tt) dimer pairs associated through the membrane-distal and membrane-proximal subdomains, respectively. The tt-dimer structure has been proposed previously (van den Akker, F., Zhang, X., Miyagi, M., Huo, X., Misono, K. S., and Yee, V. C. (2000) Nature 406, 101-104). However, no direct evidence is available to identify the physiological dimer form. Here we report site-directed mutagenesis studies of residues at the two alternative dimer interfaces in the full-length receptor expressed on COS cells. The Trp74 to Arg mutation (W74R) or D71R at the hh-dimer interface caused partial constitutive guanylate cyclase activation, whereas mutation F96D or H99D caused receptor uncoupling. In contrast, mutation Y196D or L225D at the tt-interface had no such effect. His99 modification at the hh-dimer interface by ethoxyformic anhydride abolished ANP binding. These results suggest that the hh-dimer represents the physiological structure. Recently, we determined the crystal structure of ANPR complexed with ANP and proposed a hormone-induced rotation mechanism mediating transmembrane signaling (H. Ogawa, Y. Qiu, C. M. Ogata, and K. S. Misono, submitted for publication). The observed effects of mutations are consistent with the ANP-induced structural change identified from the crystal structures with and without ANP and support the proposed rotation mechanism for ANP receptor signaling.