Protein-phospholipid as well as protein-protein interactions may be critical for tight binding of the serine protease factor VIIa (VIIa) to its receptor cofactor tissue factor (TF). To elucidate the role of protein-protein interactions, we analyzed the interaction of VII/VIIa with TF in the absence of phospholipid. Binding of VII occurred with similar affinity to solubilized and phospholipid-reconstituted TF. Lack of the gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla)-domain (des-(1-38)-VIIa) resulted in a 10- to 30-fold increase of the Kd for the interaction, as did blocking the Gla-domain by Fab fragments of a specific monoclonal antibody. These results suggest that the VII Gla-domain can participate in protein-protein interaction with the TF molecule per se rather than only in interactions with the charged phospholipid surface. Gla-domain-independent, low affinity binding of VII to TF required micromolar Ca2+, indicating involvement of high affinity calcium ion binding sites suggested to be localized in VII rather than TF. Interference with Gla-domain-dependent interactions with TF did not alter the TF. VIIa-dependent cleavage of a small peptidyl substrate, whereas the proteolytic activation of the protein substrate factor X was markedly decreased, suggesting that the VIIa Gla-domain not only participates in the formation of a more stable TF. VIIa complex but contributes to extended substrate recognition.