The pleckstrin homology (PH) domain is a conserved protein module present in diverse signal transducing proteins. To investigate the function of the PH domain of the Ras exchanger Sos, we have generated a recombinant (His)6-tagged PH domain from human Sos1 (PH-Sos). Here we show that PH-Sos binds with high affinity(1.5 microM) to lipid vesicles containing the negatively charged phospholipid phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2). When microinjected into serum-deprived rat embryo fibroblasts or COS cells, PH-Sos displays a homogenous subcellular distribution. However, PH-Sos rapidly accumulates in the plasma membrane following serum stimulation and, under these conditions, is localized preferentially to the leading edge of motile cells. Surprisingly, the membrane localization of PH-Sos is not dependent on its ability to bind PIP2. Overexpression of the PH domain of Sos has a pronounced dominant-negative effect on serum-induced activation of the Ras signaling pathway. These results suggest that the PH domain of Sos participates in regulating the inducible association of Sos with the membrane, and indicate the presence of specific ligands that interact with this domain to bring about the activation of Ras.