The high affinity receptor for IgE, FcepsilonRI, binds IgE through the second Ig-like domain of the alpha subunit. The role of the first Ig-like domain is not well understood, but it is required for optimal binding of IgE to FcepsilonRI, either through a minor contact interaction or in a supporting structural capacity. The results reported here demonstrate that domain one of FcepsilonRI plays a major structural role supporting the presentation of the ligand-binding site, by interactions generated within the interdomain interface. Analysis of a series of chimeric receptors and point mutants indicated that specific residues within the A' strand of domain one are crucial to the maintenance of the interdomain interface, and IgE binding. Mutation of the Arg(15) and Phe(17) residues caused loss in ligand binding, and utilizing a homology model of FcepsilonRI-alpha based on the solved structure of FcgammaRIIa, it appears likely that this decrease is brought about by collapse of the interface and consequently the IgE-binding site. In addition discrepancies in results of previous studies using chimeric IgE receptors comprising FcepsilonRIalpha with either FcgammaRIIa or FcgammaRIIIA can be explained by the presence or absence of Arg(15) and its influence on the IgE-binding site. The data presented here suggest that the second domain of FcepsilonRI-alpha is the only domain involved in direct contact with the IgE ligand and that domain one has a structural function of great importance in maintaining the integrity of the interdomain interface and, through it, the ligand-binding site.