In general, C4A allotypes of human C4 show one-fourth to one-third the hemolytic activity of C4B allotypes. An exception to this rule is C4A6 which is almost totally deficient in hemolytic activity. Previous studies have localized the defect in C4A6 to the C5 convertase stage. Of the two critical events required for C5 cleavage, namely formation of a covalent adduct between C3b and the C4b subunit of the C3 convertase (C4b2a), and binding of C5 to this C4b-C3b complex, it is a defect in the latter step that accounts for the aberrant activity of C4A6. DNA sequencing studies described in a companion paper have suggested that the sole C4A6-specific difference was a Trp for Arg replacement at beta-chain residue 458. To directly ascertain whether this single substitution was responsible for the hemolytic defect in C4A6, we have used site-directed mutagenesis to introduce this change into both C4A and C4B cDNA expression plasmids. We found that the R to W replacement totally abrogated hemolytic activity. However, irrespective of the amino acid at residue 458, the mutant proteins behaved like their wild-type counterparts with respect to covalent binding to C1-bearing targets, i.e., the C4B recombinants displayed higher binding to sheep and human red cells than did the C4A counterparts. Furthermore, the mutants were able to form covalent C4b-C3b adducts. There was, however, substantially less C5 cleavage produced by cell-bound C4boxy23b complexes made with R458W mutant C4B than with wild-type C4B. These results are consistent with the sole defect in the mutants being at the C5 binding stage and strongly suggest that Arg 458 of the C4 beta-chain contributes to the C5 binding site of the molecule.