The CD4 glycoprotein is expressed on T-helper and cytotoxic lymphocytes which are restricted to class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens on target cells. Antibody inhibition studies imply that CD4 acts to increase the avidity of effector-target cell interactions. These observations have led to the speculation that CD4 binds to a monomorphic class II antigen determinant, thereby augmenting low affinity T-cell receptor-antigen interactions. However, no direct evidence has been presented indicating that CD4 and class II molecules interact. To address this issue, we have used a vector derived from simian virus 40 (SV40) to express a complementary DNA (cDNA) encoding the human CD4 glycoprotein. When CV1 cells expressing large amounts of the CD4 protein at the cell surface are incubated with human B cells bearing MHC-encoded class II molecules, they are bound tightly to the infected monolayer, whereas mutant B cells which lack class II molecules fail to bind. Furthermore, the binding reaction is specifically inhibited by anti-class II and anti-CD4 antibodies. Thus, the CD4 protein, even in the absence of T-cell receptor-antigen interactions, can interact directly with class II antigens to function as a cell surface adhesion molecule.