The Staphylococcus aureus Map protein was proposed to act as a multifunctional adhesin. Using a map- mutant, a complemented strain and recombinant Map, we demonstrated that Map was not a conventional adhesin and was not involved in binding soluble extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and in staphylococcal adherence to immobilized ECM proteins. However, Map provided a substrate for efficient and species-specific adherence of staphylococcal cells. This interaction was dose-dependent and was inhibited by specific anti-Map antibodies. According to ligand blots, two staphylococcal surface proteins of 82 and 50 kDa appeared to function as Map receptors. Adherence of the mutant to epithelial cells was reduced by 80% as compared to wild-type and complemented strains. However, adherence was not followed by a similar high rate of internalization. In conclusion, Map can function as an endogenous adhesion substrate in the attachment to plastic surfaces and eukaryotic cells via interaction with staphylococcal surface adhesins.