The Duffy blood group antigen has been postulated to be a receptor on red blood cells (RBCs) for the malarial parasite Plasmodium vivax and a promiscuous receptor for the chemokine superfamily of inflammatory proteins. Recently, the Duffy antigen glycoprotein D cDNA has been cloned (Chaudhuri et al: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90:10793, 1993). We have analyzed the binding properties of the cloned Duffy antigen. Duffy- antigen cDNAs expressed in human embryonic kidney cells produced cell- surface proteins that reacted with two known anti-Duffy monoclonal antibodies. Direct ligand binding and displacement experiments using recombinant chemokine proteins also show that the cloned Duffy protein is the RBC chemokine receptor. Radiolabeled chemokines of both the C-C (RANTES and MCP-1) and C-X-C (IL-8 and MGSA/gro) subclasses bound reversibly to transfected cells with dissociation constants in the nanomolar range. Chemokines of either class displaced heterologous chemokines, indicating that they were competing for a single site on the transfected cells. Although the chemokines bound to the transfected cells with high affinity, there was no evidence for signal transduction, as measured by transient increases in intracellular calcium ion concentration, through the Duffy antigen/RBC chemokine receptor in transfected cells. Lastly, we have performed a computer analysis on the amino acid structure of the Duffy antigen/RBC chemokine receptor. Although the cloned Duffy antigen has been postulated to be a nine-transmembrane-spanning receptor, our analysis suggests that the molecule most likely belongs to the seven-transmembrane-spanning receptor superfamily and is therefore similar to other chemokine receptors previously identified.