CD24 is a signal-transducing molecule on the surfaces of most human B cells that can modulate their response to activation signals by antagonizing IL-induced differentiation into antibody-forming cells and inducing proliferation in combination with signals generated by Ag receptors. A cDNA that directs the expression of CD24 on the surfaces of transfected COS cells was cloned by its homology to a cDNA encoding the murine M1/69-J11d heat stable Ag. The CD24 cDNA encodes a mature peptide of only 31 to 35 amino acids that is extensively glycosylated and is attached to the outer surface of the plasma membrane by a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol lipid anchor. Although CD24 is structurally similar to M1/69-J11d, and the two Ag appear to have a common genetic ancestry, the homology of CD24 to the M1/69-J11d Ag is confined to a small cluster of amino acids comprising potential N-linked glycosylation sites. Combined with the differences in expression patterns of the human and murine Ag, this indicates that CD24 and M1/69-J11d may not have equivalent functional roles in lymphoid development. The novel structure of CD24 suggests that signaling could be triggered by the binding of a lectin-like ligand to the carbohydrates projecting from the CD24 peptide, and transduced through the release of second messengers derived from the glycosyl phosphatidylinositol membrane anchor of CD24.