The PTH/PTH-related peptide receptor is a member of a newly discovered family of G-protein-coupled receptors. Strikingly conserved features among these receptors include the positioning of eight extracellular cysteines and several other residues that are located predominantly within the membrane-embedded region. Deletion mutants or receptors with point mutations of the highly conserved cysteine residues were transiently expressed in COS-7 cells to evaluate PTH binding and PTH-stimulated cAMP production. Deletion of residues 61-105, which are encoded by exon E2 in the PTH/PTH-related peptide receptor gene, did not affect receptor function. An epitope derived from Haemophilus influenza hemagglutinin was, therefore, introduced into this portion of most receptors to allow the independent assessment of cell surface expression. PTH binding capacity was not reduced by the deletion of residues 258-278 in the first extracellular loop. Receptors with deletion of either residues 31-47 in the amino-terminal extension or residues 431-440 in the third extracellular loop failed to bind PTH, although expression of the receptor on the cell surface was only marginally reduced. Most other receptor mutants, including those in which each of the six cysteines in the amino-terminus was replaced by serines, failed to be processed and/or expressed appropriately, whereas the substitution of cysteine-281 or -351 had a less severe effect. The combined replacement of both cysteines concomitantly increased PTH binding and cell surface expression, suggesting the formation of a disulfide bond between these two residues. Our data indicate that residues near the amino-terminus and within the third extracellular loop are necessary for ligand binding, whereas more than 25% of the receptor's extracellular region appears not to be involved.