The nature of the receptor-destroying enzyme (RDE) of influenza C virus has been elucidated by analyzing its effect on the haemagglutination inhibitors rat alpha 1-macroglobulin (RMG) and bovine submandibulary mucin (BSM), respectively. The inhibitory activity of both compounds is abolished by incubation with influenza C virus. After inactivation, RMG and BSM were found to contain reduced amounts of N-acetyl-9-O-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5,9Ac2) and increased amounts of N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac). H.p.l.c. analysis revealed that purified Neu5,9Ac2 is converted to Neu5Ac by incubation with influenza C virus. These results demonstrate that RDE of influenza C virus is neuraminate-O-acetylesterase [N-acyl-9(4)-O-acetylneuraminate O-acetylhydrolase (EC 18.104.22.168)]. The data also indicate that haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) by RMG and BSM and most likely virus attachment to cell surfaces involves binding of influenza C virus to Neu5,9Ac2.