Clostridium botulinum type C 16S progenitor toxin consists of a neurotoxin (NTX), a non-toxic non-HA (NTNH), and a haemagglutinin (HA). The HA acts as an adhesin, allowing the 16S toxin to bind to intestinal epithelial cells and erythrocytes. In type C, these bindings are dependent on sialic acid. The HA consists of four distinct subcomponents designated HA1, HA2, HA3a and HA3b. To identify the binding subcomponent(s) of HA of type C 16S toxin, all of the HA-subcomponents and some of their precursor forms were produced as recombinant proteins fused to glutathione S-transferase (GST). These proteins were evaluated for their capacity to adhere to intestinal epithelial cells of guinea pig and human erythrocytes. GST-HA1, GST-HA3b and GST-HA3 (a precursor form of HA3a and HA3b) bound intestinal epithelial cells and erythrocytes, whereas GST alone, GST-HA2 and GST-HA3a did not. GST-HA3b and GST-HA3 showed neuraminidase-sensitive binding to the intestinal epithelial cells and erythrocytes, whereas GST-HA1 showed neuraminidase-insensitive binding. TLC binding assay revealed that GST-HA3b and GST-HA3 recognized sialosylparagloboside (SPG) and GM3 in the ganglioside fraction of the erythrocytes, like native type C 16S toxin [Inoue, K. et al. (1999). Microbiology 145, 2533-2542]. On the other hand, GST-HA1 recognized paragloboside (PG; an asialo- derivative of SPG) in addition to SPG and GM3. Deletion mutant analyses of GST-HA3b showed that the C-terminal region of HA3b is important for its binding activity. Based on these data, it is concluded that the HA component contains two distinct carbohydrate-binding subcomponents, HA1 and HA3b, which recognize carbohydrates in different specificities.