The invention provides recombinant human CAR (coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor) polypeptides which bind adenovirus. Specifically, polypeptides corresponding to adenovirus binding domain D1 and the entire extracellular domain of human CAR protein comprising D1 and D2 are provided. In another aspect, the invention provides nucleic acid sequences encoding these domains and expression vectors for producing the domains and bacterial cells containing such vectors. The invention also includes an isolated fusion protein comprised of the D1 polypeptide fused to a polypeptide which facilitates folding of D1 when expressed in bacteria. The functional D1 domain finds application in a therapeutic method for treating a patient infected with a CAR D1-binding virus, and also in a method for identifying an antiviral compound which interferes with viral attachment. The invention also provides a method for specifically targeting a cell for infection by a virus which binds to D1.