The superfamily of proteins containing the C-type-lectin-like domain (CTLD) is a group of abundant extracellular metazoan proteins characterized by evolutionary flexibility and functional versatility. Several CTLDs are also found in parasitic prokaryotes and viruses. The 37 distinct currently available CTLD structures demonstrate significant structural conservation despite low or undetectable sequence similarity. Our aim in this study was to perform an extensive comparative analysis of all available CTLD structures to establish the most conserved structural features of the fold, and to test and extend the early analysis of Drickamer. By implication, these features should be those critical for maintenance of integrity of the fold. By analyzing CTLD structures superimposed by several methods, we have established groups of conserved structural positions involved in fold maintenance but not in ligand binding; these are consistent with the fold's known functional flexibility. In addition to the well-recognized disulfide bridges, groups of conserved residues are involved in hydrophobic interactions stabilizing the core of the fold and the long loop region, and in an α2-β1–β5 polar interaction. Evaluation of the conclusions of the structure comparison study compared with alignments of all available human, mouse and Caenorhabditis elegans CTLD sequences showed that conservation patterns are preserved throughout the whole CTLD sequence space. Our observations provide an improved understanding of CTLD structure, and will help in identification of new CTLDs and the mechanisms that drive and constrain the coevolution of the structure and function of the fold. Proteins 2003;52:466–477. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.