The plasmid-encoded surface protein YadA of Yersinia enterocolitica mediates binding to diverse extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, adherence to epithelial cell lines, resistance to complement lysis, autoagglutination, and is required for mouse virulence. Using site-directed mutagenesis we attempted to analyse the relationship between structural domains and functions of YadA. In a first approach we could abrogate collagen binding by chemical modification of histidyl residues of YadA protein. This result prompted us to substitute histidyl residues (His) of conserved regions of YadA protein of Y. enterocolitica O8 by tyrosine residues using site-directed mutagenesis. Substitution of His-156 and His-159 (YadA-2 mutant) resulted in abrogation of binding to ECM proteins, of cell adherence, and in reduction of mouse virulence, whereas autoagglutination, serum complement resistance and oligomer formation remained unaffected. A striking result was obtained from the orogastric mouse-infection model: the YadA-2 mutant retained the ability to colonize the small intestine and to invade and multiply within the Peyer's patches but was impaired in colonizing mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen in comparison to the wild-type strain.