The complement anaphylatoxin C5a and its seven-transmembrane segment (7TMS) receptor play an important role in host defense and in a number of inflammation-associated pathologies. The NH(2)-terminal domain of the C5a receptor (C5aR/CD88) contributes substantially to its ability to bind C5a. Here we show that the tyrosines at positions 11 and 14 of the C5aR are posttranslationally modified by the addition of sulfate groups. The sulfate moieties of each of these tyrosines are critical to the ability of the C5aR to bind C5a and to mobilize calcium. A C5aR variant lacking these sulfate moieties efficiently mobilized calcium in response to a small peptide agonist, but not to C5a, consistent with a two-site model of ligand association in which the tyrosine-sulfated region of the C5aR mediates the initial docking interaction. A peptide based on the NH(2) terminus of the C5aR and sulfated at these two tyrosines, but not its unsulfated analogue or a doubly sulfated control peptide, partially inhibited C5a association with its receptor. These observations clarify structural and mutagenic studies of the C5a/C5aR association and suggest that related 7TMS receptors are also modified by functionally important sulfate groups on their NH(2)-terminal tyrosines.