N-Acetyl-9-O-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5,9Ac2) has been shown to be a high-affinity receptor determinant for attachment of influenza C virus to erythrocytes (G. N. Rogers, G. Herrler, J. C. Paulson, and H-D. Klenk, 1986, J. Biol. Chem. 261, 5947-5951). In this report the nature of the cell surface receptor for influenza C virus on tissue culture cells was analyzed. Pretreatment with either neuraminidase or neuraminate 9-O-acetylesterase was found to render LLC-MK2 cells resistant to infection by influenza C virus as evidenced by the failure to detect virus release into the medium by hemagglutination titration. Susceptibility to infection was fully restored after incubation of neuraminidase-treated cells with bovine brain gangliosides known to contain Neu5,9Ac2. These results indicate that (i) Neu5,9Ac2 is the primary receptor determinant required for influenza C virus to attach to tissue culture cells and to initiate infection and (ii) gangliosides containing this type of sialic acid are potential receptors for influenza C virus. Several cell lines which are resistant to infection by this virus were able to release influenza C virus into the medium provided they were incubated with bovine brain gangliosides prior to virus infection. This result indicates that lack of appropriate receptors on the cell surface is a major reason for the restricted cell tropism of influenza C virus.