Sensory adaptation in bacterial chemotaxis is mediated by chemoreceptor methylation and demethylation. In Escherichia coli, methyltransferase CheR and methylesterase CheB bind both substrate sites and a carboxyl-terminal pentapeptide sequence carried by certain receptors. Pentapeptide binding enhances enzyme action, an enhancement required for effective adaptation and chemotaxis. Pentapeptides are linked to the conserved body of chemoreceptors through a notably variable sequence of 30-35 residues. We created nested deletions from the distal end of this linker in chemoreceptor Tar. Chemotaxis was eliminated by deletion of 20-40 residues and reduced by shorter deletions. This did not reflect generalized disruption, because all but the most extremely truncated receptors activated kinase, were substrates for adaptational modification and performed transmembrane signalling. In contrast, linker truncations reduced rates of adaptational modification in parallel with chemotaxis. We concluded the linker is important for chemotaxis because of its role in adaptational modification. Effects of linker truncations on CheR binding to receptor-borne pentapeptide implied linker (i) makes pentapeptide available to modification enzymes by separation from the helical receptor body, and (ii) is a flexible arm allowing dual binding of enzyme to pentapeptide and modification site. The data suggest linker and the helix from which it emerges are structurally dynamic.