The unique properties of brain endothelial cells, which form the blood-brain barrier, are reflected by the expression of specific cell surface molecules. We report here the purification, cloning and expression of one such molecule which is recognized by HT7 monoclonal antibodies. The HT7 antigen is a highly glycosylated 45-52 kd protein localized in brain endothelial cells, kidney epithelial cells and erythroblasts. The protein was purified to homogeneity from plasma membrane proteins isolated from all three sources using immunoaffinity chromatography and reverse phase HPLC. The amino-terminal amino acid sequences of the proteins were found to be identical. Based on amino acid sequence information, specific primers were designed and the polymerase chain reaction was used to obtain a full length cDNA clone. The nucleotide sequence encoded a novel glycoprotein with two C2-like immunoglobulin related domains, one transmembrane domain and a cytoplasmic tail. Expression of the transfected cDNA in COS cells resulted in the appearance of the HT7 antigen on the surface of these cells. On the basis of our results we propose that the protein may be a receptor involved in cell surface recognition at the blood-brain barrier.