Streptococcus pneumoniae (Pnc) binds to nasopharyngeal (NP) epithelial cells in the first steps of nasopharyngeal carriage and colonization through bacterial adhesins. The pneumococcal surface adhesin A (PsaA) has previously been reported to play a significant role in pneumococcal adherence and colonization. Identification of a receptor for PsaA on human epithelium will aid in understanding the pathogenesis of this bacterium. Using recombinant PsaA covalently bound to fluorescent spheres (fluospheres), we show PsaA binds to NP cells through interaction with the human cellular receptor, E-cadherin. SDS-PAGE silver stain analysis demonstrates binding of PsaA to E-cadherin. Recombinant human E-cadherin binds to and blocks PsaA-coated fluospheres and whole transparent bacteria from adhering to NP cells, but does not block a Pnc PsaA(-) mutant. Recombinant E-selectin and human alpha(5)beta(1) integrin did not bind to or block PsaA-coated fluosphere adherence to NP cells. Likewise, if NP cells were preincubated with anti-E-cadherin antibody, there was a significant decrease (46%, P=0.05) in PsaA-coated fluosphere adherence to the cells. Additionally, when using E-cadherin transfected cells, we observed PsaA-coated fluospheres bind more efficiently to cells which express E-cadherin. This work identifies E-cadherin as a receptor on human epithelial cells for the pneumococcal surface adhesin, PsaA.