Two related mammalian proteins, bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI) and lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP), share high-affinity binding to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a glycolipid found in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. The recently determined crystal structure of human BPI permits a structure/function analysis, presented here, of the conserved regions of these two proteins sequences. In the seven known sequences of BPI and LBP, 102 residues are completely conserved and may be classified in terms of location, side-chain chemistry, and interactions with other residues. We find that the most highly conserved regions lie at the interfaces between the tertiary structural elements that help create two apolar lipid-binding pockets. Most of the conserved polar and charged residues appear to be involved in inter-residue interactions such as H-bonding. However, in both BPI and LBP a subset of conserved residues with positive charge (lysines 42, 48, 92, 95, and 99 of BPI) have no apparent structural role. These residues cluster at the tip of the NH2-terminal domain, and several coincide with residues known to affect LPS binding; thus, it seems likely that these residues make electrostatic interactions with negatively charged groups of LPS. Overall differences in charge and electrostatic potential between BPI and LBP suggest that BPI's bactericidal activity is related to the high positive charge of its NH2-terminal domain. A model of human LBP derived from the BPI structure provides a rational basis for future experiments, such as site-directed mutagenesis and inhibitor design.