CD31 is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily consisting of six Ig-related domains. It is constitutively expressed by platelets, monocytes, and some lymphocytes, but at tenfold higher levels on vascular endothelial cells. CD31 has both homotypic and heterotypic adhesive properties. We have mapped the homotypic binding sites using a deletion series of CD31-Fc chimeras and a panel of anti-CD31 monoclonal antibodies. An extensive surface of CD31 is involved in homotypic binding with domains 2 and 3 and domains 5 and 6 playing key roles. A model consistent with the experimental data is that CD31 on one cell binds to CD31 on an apposing cell in an antiparallel interdigitating mode requiring full alignment of the six domains of each molecule. In addition to establishing intercellular homotypic contacts. CD31 binding leads to augmented adhesion via beta 1 integrins. The positive cooperation between CD31 and beta 1 integrins can occur in heterologous primate cells (COS cells). The interaction is specific to both CD31 and beta 1 integrins. Neither intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1)/leukocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LCAM-1) nor neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM)/NCAM adhesion leads to recruitment of beta 1 integrin adhesion pathways. Establishment of CD31 contacts have effects on the growth and morphology of endothelial cells. CD31(D1-D6)Fc inhibits the growth of endothelial cells in culture. In addition, papain fragments of anti-CD31 antibodies (Fab fragments) disrupt interendothelial contact formation and monolayer integrity when intercellular contacts are being formed. The same reagents are without effect once these contacts have been established, suggesting that CD31-CD31 interactions are critically important only in the initial phases of intercellular adhesion.