The MHC-encoded butyrophilin, BTN2A1, is a cell surface glycoprotein related to the extended family of B7 costimulatory molecules. BTN2A1 mRNA was expressed in most human tissues, but protein expression was significantly lower in leukocytes. An Ig-fusion protein of BTN2A1 bound to immature monocyte-derived dendritic cells. Binding diminished upon MoDC maturation and no binding was detected to Langerhans cells. Induction of the counterreceptor was IL-4 dependent and occurred early during dendritic cell differentiation. The interaction required the presence of Ca2+ and was mediated by high-mannose oligosaccharides. These properties matched DC-SIGN, a DC-specific HIV-1 entry receptor. This was confirmed by binding of soluble BTN2A1 to DC-SIGN-transfectants and its inhibition by a specific Ab. DC-SIGN bound to native BTN2A1 expressed on a range of tissues. However, BTN2A1 was not recognized on some normal cells such as HUVECs despite a similar expression level. The BTN2A1 of tumor cells such as HEK293T have more high-mannose moieties in comparison to HUVECs, and those high-mannose moieties are instrumental for binding to DC-SIGN.