Apolipoprotein (apo) B-100, the protein constituent of low density lipoproteins (LDL), is the determinant responsible for LDL binding to the apoB,E(LDL) receptor on cells. The current study was designed to identify the region(s) of apoB-100 that interact with the apoB,E(LDL) receptor. Apolipoprotein B-100 was fragmented by thrombin digestion, and the isolated fragments (T2, T3, T4) were recombined with cholesterol-induced canine high density lipoproteins (HDLc). Before the recombination, the receptor binding activity of apoE of the HDLc was abolished by reductive methylation and extensive trypsin treatment. This treatment permitted almost complete replacement of the small residual apoE fragments by the large apoB fragments. Recombinant apoB particles were isolated by ultracentrifugation and tested for binding to receptors on cultured human fibroblasts. The recombinant particles had chemical and physical properties similar to those of native HDLc. Recombinants of both the whole thrombolytic digest and of isolated fragments displayed specific binding to the apoB,E (LDL) receptor. Anti-apoB,E(LDL) receptor antibodies abolished 90% of the binding, and there was almost no specific binding to receptor-negative fibroblasts or to cells in which the receptors had been down-regulated. The binding of apoB-100 recombinants to the receptor also demonstrated calcium dependency; in addition, the surface binding of the recombinants was released by polyanionic compounds. All these recombinants had binding affinities comparable to one another but less than that of native LDL. Although T2, T3 and T4 recombinants can all bind specifically to the apoB,E(LDL) receptor, it remains to be established whether their activity represents physiologically relevant binding. Nevertheless, the present findings illustrate the potential of the recombinant method using HDLc lipids to reconstitute biological activity.