Murine type C ecotropic retrovirus infection is initiated by virus envelope binding to a membrane receptor expressed on mouse cells. We have identified a cDNA clone that may encode for this receptor through a strategy combining gene transfer of mouse NIH 3T3 DNA into nonpermissive human EJ cells, selection of EJ clones that have acquired susceptibility to infection by retrovirus vectors containing drug resistance genes, and identification of the putative receptor cDNA clone through linkage to a mouse repetitive DNA sequence. Human EJ cells that express the cDNA acquire a million-fold increase in MuLV infectivity. The predicted 622 amino acid sequence of the putative receptor protein is extremely hydrophobic; 14 potential membrane-spanning domains have been identified. A computer-based search of sequence data banks did not identify a protein with significant similarity to the putative receptor. We conclude that a novel membrane protein determines susceptibility to ecotropic MuLV infection by binding and/or fusion with the virus envelope.