Recently, we have shown that a region within the beta4 cytoplasmic domain, encompassing the second fibronectin type III (FNIII) repeat and the first 27 amino acids of the connecting segment, is critical for the localization of alpha6 beta4 in hemidesmosomes. In addition, this region was shown to regulate the distribution of HD1/plectin in transfected cells. In order to investigate the function of the beta4 extracellular and cytoplasmic domains in the assembly and integrity of hemidesmosomes, we have constructed chimeric receptors consisting of the extracellular and transmembrane domains of the interleukin 2 receptor (IL2R), fused to different parts of the beta4 cytoplasmic domain. These chimeras are expressed as single subunits at the plasma membrane. The results show that the first and the second FNIII repeat, together with the first part of the connecting segment (in total a stretch of 241 amino acids spanning amino acids 1,115 to 1,356) are both essential and sufficient for the localization of beta4 in pre-existing hemidesmosomes. Moreover, expression of the IL2R/beta4 chimeric constructs in COS-7 and CHO cells, which do not express alpha6 beta4 or the bullous pemphigoid (BP) antigens but do express HD1/plectin, revealed that the stretch of 241 amino acids is sufficient for inducing the formation of type II hemidesmosomes. Expression of the IL2R/beta4 chimeras in a keratinocyte cell line derived from a patient lacking beta4 expression, showed that amino acids 1,115 to 1,356 can also induce the formation of type I hemidesmosomes. We further demonstrate that type I and II hemidesmosomes can also be formed upon adhesion of alpha6 beta4-expressing cells to fibronectin. These findings establish that the beta4 extracellular domain is not essential for the induction of hemidesmosome assembly. Moreover, they demonstrate that binding of alpha6 beta4 to ligand, and heterodimerization of alpha6 with beta4, are not required for hemidesmosome formation. This indicates that the assembly of hemidesmosomes can be regulated from within the cell.