Previous studies have shown that the purified T lymphocyte glycoprotein, cluster differentiation 2 (CD2) (also known as T11, lymphocyte function-associated antigen (LFA)-2, and the erythrocyte (E) rosette receptor) interacts with the LFA-3 molecule on human E. We have examined the interaction of the purified CD2 molecule with the T11 target structure (T11TS) molecule on sheep E, and compared the two interactions. Purified, 125I-labeled CD2 bound to sheep E and the binding was inhibited by anti-T11TS monoclonal antibody (mAb). Reciprocally, the binding of T11TS mAb to sheep E was inhibited by pretreatment of sheep E with purified CD2. High concentrations of purified CD2 aggregated sheep E, possibly by inserting into the membrane, and the aggregation was inhibited by T11TS mAb. The affinity and number of binding sites for purified CD2 on sheep and human E was found to be similar, with Ka of 9 X 10(7)/M and 6 X 10(7)/M and 9800 and 8300 CD2 binding sites/E, respectively. Thus, the human T lymphocyte CD2 molecule is a receptor that cross-reacts between LFA-3 on human E and T11TS on sheep E, suggesting that LFA-3 and T11TS are functionally homologous ligands. As measured by saturation mAb binding, there are 8100 and 3900 ligand molecules/sheep and human E, respectively. Human and sheep E have surface areas of 145 and 54 micron 2, respectively. The 3.2- to 5.6-fold higher ligand density on sheep E appears to account for the ability of sheep but not human E to rosette with certain types of human T lymphocytes.