Four G adhesins, cloned from uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains, were examined for binding to glycolipids and various eukaryotic cells. PapGAD110 and PapGIA2 showed virtually identical binding patterns to Gal alpha 1-4Gal-containing glycolipids, while PapGJ96 differed slightly and PrsGJ96 markedly with respect to the effect of neighbouring groups on the binding. Their hemagglutination patterns confirmed the existence of three receptor-binding specificities. While the PapG adhesins bound to uroepithelial cells from man (T24) but not to those from the dog (MDCK II), the reverse was true of PrsG. These binding patterns were largely explained by the absence or presence of appropriate glycolipid isoreceptors, although the inability of the PapG adhesins to bind MDCK II cells was attributed to an inappropriate presentation of their receptor epitopes. The high prevalence of PrsG-like specificities observed among wild-type dog uropathogenic E. coli isolates, together with the determined isoreceptor composition of human and dog kidney target tissues, suggest variation in receptor specificity as a mechanism for shifting host specificity, and that this variation has evolved in response to the topography of the host cellular receptors. The receptor-binding half proposed for the predicted amino acid sequences of the four G adhesins and the corresponding adhesin of one of the dog E. coli isolates varied considerably among the three receptor-binding groups of adhesins, but only little within each group.