A galactoside-binding lectin (hL-31) containing a collagen-like sequence was identified in human tumor cells. It was found to be the homologue of the IgE-binding protein, the macrophage cell-surface Mac-2 antigen, and the murine CBP35, RL-29, and mL-34 lectins. Here we report on the expression in Escherichia coli and functional analysis of recombinant hL-31 (rhL-31). The rhL-31 was purified in one step through an asialofetuin affinity column. The rhL-31 was reactive to anti-lectin antibodies and retained its lactose-dependent hemagglutination of trypsin-treated glutaraldehyde-fixed rabbit erythrocytes. The rhL-31 elutes from an affinity column as a 31-kDa monomer and undergoes homodimerization at relatively high protein concentrations, comparable to those used to mediate hemagglutination. Electron microscopy showed that the rhL-31 appears as a Y-shaped structure. Lactoperoxidase-catalyzed iodination of murine tumor cell-surface proteins followed by collagenase treatment revealed that the lectin is probably a peripheral membrane protein whereby both the amino and the carboxy termini are exposed on the outer cell membrane. These results point to the membrane disposition and orientation of the lectin and suggest a mechanism for a structure-function relationship of lectin activity.