C4b-binding protein (C4BP) down-regulates the anticoagulant cofactor activity of protein S in the protein C pathway since free protein S but not the protein S:C4BP complex is anticoagulantly active. To identify beta chain residues responsible for binding protein S, synthetic overlapping pentadecapeptides covering the entire 1-235 sequence were tested as inhibitors of complex formation. The peptide comprising residues 31-45 (VCIKGYHLVGKKTLF) from the first short consensus repeat domain inhibited the binding of C4BP to protein S with half-maximal inhibition at 20-45 microM, and studies suggested the sequence of YxLVG was crucial. Peptide beta(31-45) specifically inhibited the APC cofactor activity of purified protein S in Xa-1-stage coagulation assays with 50% inhibition at 15 microM peptide. Peptide beta(31-45) and related peptides such as beta(34-42) inhibited the binding of protein S to an antipeptide monoclonal antibody made against residues 420-434 of protein S (monoclonal antibody LJ-56). Polyclonal anti-beta(31-45) peptide antibodies inhibited complex formation. Dose-dependent binding studies showed that protein S bound directly to immobilized peptide beta(31-45). These results show that residues 31-45 of the C4BP beta chain provide a binding site for protein S, and they suggest that the C4BP beta chain residues 34-42 are located near residues 420-434 of protein S in the protein S:C4BP complex.