Some, perhaps all, G protein-coupled receptors form homo- or heterodimers. We have shown that metabotropic glutamate receptors are covalent dimers, held together by one or more disulfide bonds near the N terminus. Here we report how mutating cysteines in this region affect dimerization and function. Covalent dimerization is preserved when cysteines 57, 93, or 99 are mutated but lost with replacement at 129. Coimmunoprecipitation under nondenaturing conditions indicates that the CS mutant receptor remains a dimer, via noncovalent interactions. Both CS and CS bind [3H]quisqualate, whereas binding to CS or CS mutants is absent or greatly attenuated. The CS and CS receptors have activity simiiar to wild-type when assayed by fura-2 imaging of intracellular calcium in human embryonic kidney cells or electrophysiologically in Xenopus laevis oocytes. In contrast, CS or CS are less active in both assays but do respond with higher glutamate concentrations in the oocyte assay. These results demonstrate that 1) covalent dimerization is not critical for mGlu5 binding or function; 2) mGlu5 remains a noncovalent dimer even in the absence of covalent dimerization; and 3) high-affinity binding requires Cys-57 and Cys-99.