Studies were performed to define the fibronectin binding motif of the previously identified Mycobacterium avium fibronectin attachment protein (FAP-A). Using synthetic peptides of a previously identified fibronectin binding region (amino acids 269-292), the minimal binding sequence was determined to be 12 amino acids, 269-280 (FAP-A-(269-280)). Synthetic peptides were prepared in which each amino acid in the 269-280 sequence was substituted with Ala. Assessment of the effect of Ala substitution on fibronectin binding showed that the presence of Ala at amino acids 273-276 (RWFV) completely abrogated fibronectin binding activity. Furthermore, the ability to inhibit the attachment of viable Mycobacterium bovis BCG to fibronectin was abrogated by Ala substitution at the RWFV sites. To validate the function of RWFV, further studies were performed with recombinant FAP-A in which single Ala mutations were generated for the RWFV sites and as controls at amino acids 269 and 280. Mutant FAP-A containing single Ala substitutions at the RWFV sites (amino acids 273, 274, 275, or 276) showed significant abrogation of fibronectin binding function. Recombinant FAP-A with Ala substitutions at either 269 or 280 showed wild type activity. When the four essential amino acids (RWFV) were either substituted en bloc with Ala or were all deleted, complete loss of fibronectin binding function was observed. Control recombinant proteins with en bloc Ala substitutions or deletions at four positions outside the fibronectin binding region (amino acids 255-257) retained functional activity. These data show that the RWFV sequence is necessary for fibronectin binding function of FAP-A. Furthermore, the data suggest that mycobacterial FAP proteins, all of which share the RWFV binding motif, constitute a family of highly homologous proteins that bind fibronectin in a unique manner.