Our previous studies have established that a cell-surface 25-kDa elastin-binding protein of Staphylococcus aureus (EbpS) mediates binding of this pathogen to the extracellular matrix protein elastin. Results from binding assays examining the activity of various EbpS fragments suggested that the elastin recognition domain is contained within the first 59 amino acids. In this report, we have used functional analyses with synthetic peptides and recombinant truncated forms of EbpS to localize the elastin binding domain to a 21-amino acid region contained within residues 14-34 of EbpS. Further evidence for the importance of this domain was obtained by demonstrating that the inhibitory activity of anti-EbpS antibodies on staphylococcal elastin binding was neutralized when these antibodies were pre-absorbed with a truncated recombinant EbpS construct containing residues 1-34. Overlapping synthetic peptides corresponding to EbpS residues 14-36 were then generated and tested for elastin binding activity to define further the elastin binding domain, and results from these studies showed that sequences spanning amino acids Gln14-Asp23, Asp17-Asp23, and Thr18- Glu34 inhibit binding of Staphylococcus aureus to elastin. Our analyses indicate that the hexameric sequence Thr18-Asn-Ser-His-Gln-Asp23 is the minimal sequence common to all active synthetic peptides, proteolytic fragments, and recombinant constructs of EbpS. Furthermore, substitution of Asp23 with Asn abrogated the blocking activity of the synthetic peptides, demonstrating the requirement for a charged amino acid at this location. The composite data indicate that staphylococcal elastin binding is mediated by a discrete domain defined by short peptide sequences in the amino-terminal extracellular region of EbpS.