The topological significance of the spectral Atiyah-Patodi-Singer η-invariant is investigated. We show that twice the fractional part of the invariant is computed by the linking pairing in K-theory with the orientation bundle of the manifold. The Pontrjagin duality implies the nondegeneracy of the linking form. An example of a nontrivial fractional part for an even-order operator is presented.

The paper deals with the calculation of the fractional part of the η-invariant for elliptic self-adjoint operators in topological terms. The method used to obtain the corresponding formula is based on the index theorem for elliptic operators in subspaces obtained in [1], [2]. It also utilizes K-theory with coefficients Zsub(n). In particular, it is shown that the group K(T*M,Zsub(n)) is realized by elliptic operators (symbols) acting in appropriate subspaces.

An elliptic theory is constructed for operators acting in subspaces defined via even pseudodifferential projections. Index formulas are obtained for operators on compact manifolds without boundary and for general boundary value problems. A connection with Gilkey's theory of η-invariants is established.

In the paper we study the possibility to represent the index formula for spectral boundary value problems as a sum of two terms, the first one being homotopy invariant of the principal symbol, while the second depends on the conormal symbol of the problem only. The answer is given in analytical, as well as in topological terms.