The low density lipoprotein (LDL) cell surface receptors on human fibroblasts grown in culture bind specific plasma lipoproteins, initiating a series of events which regulate intracellular cholesterol metabolism. Specificity for the interaction with the receptors resides with the protein moieties of the lipoproteins, specifically with the B and E apoproteins of LDL and certain high density lipoproteins (HDLc HDLl), respectively. It was previously established that the amino acid arginine is a functionally significant residue in or near the recognition sites on the B and E apoproteins and that modification of this residue abolishes the ability of these apolipoproteins to bind to the receptor. The present study indicates that lysine residues are also involved in the lipoprotein-receptor interaction. Chemical modification of 15% of the lysine residues of LDL by carbamylation with cyanate or 20% by acetoacetylation with diketene prevents the LDL from competitively displacing unmodified 125I-LDL from the high affinity receptor sites or from binding directly to the receptor. Moreover, quantitative reversal of the aceto-acetylation of the lysine residues of LDL by hydroxylamine treatment regenerates the lysyl residues and reestablishes greater than 90% of the original binding activity of the LDL. The reversibility of this reaction establishes that the loss of binding activity which follows lysine modification is not due to an irreversible alteration of the LDL or HDLc but is probably due to an alteration of a property of the recognition site associated with specific lysine residues. While acetoacetylation and carbamylation neutralize the positive charge on the epsilon-amino group of lysine, reductive methylation selectively modifies lysine residues of LDL and HDLc without altering the positive charge, yet abolishes their ability to bind to the receptor. Preservation of the charge but loss of binding activity following reductive methylation of the lipoproteins suggests that the specificity of the recognition site does not reside simply with the presence of positive charges but depends on other more specific properties of the site determined by the presence of a limited number of the lysine (and arginine) residues. The precise role of lysine remains to be defined, but its function may be to establish and maintain the conformation of the recognition site or the alignment of reactive residues, or both, or to chemically react, through its epsilon-amino group, with the receptor (hydrogen bond formation would be such a possibility).