Clumping factor of Staphylococcus aureus is a fibrinogen-binding protein that is located on the bacterial cell surface. The protein has an unusual repeat domain (region R) comprising mainly the dipeptide aspartate and serine. To determine if region R has a role in the surface display of the fibrinogen-binding region A domain, deletions lacking the region R encoding region of the clfA gene were generated. To determine the minimum length of region R required for wild-type levels of ClfA expression, variants with truncated region R domains were constructed. S. aureus cells expressing mutated clfA genes were tested for (i) proteins released by lysostaphin treatment that reacted with antisera specific for region A, (ii) clumping in soluble fibrinogen, (iii) adherence to immobilized fibrinogen and (iv) expression of the ClfA antigen on the cell surface by fluorescent activated cell sorting analysis. Each construct expressed three major immunoreactive proteins, two of which were putative N-terminal degradation products. Region R residues greater than 40 were required between region A and W (72 residues between region A and the LPDTG sorting signal) for wild-type levels of clumping in fibrinogen. A stepwise decrease in clumping titre was observed as the distance between region A and LPDTG was decreased from 72 to 4 residues. Similarly, a decrease in binding of anti-ClfA serum and in binding to fibrinogen-coated plastic surfaces was observed with cells expressing ClfA with 40 region R residues or less. Nevertheless, low levels of adherence to fibrinogen and binding to anti-ClfA serum occurred with ClfA derivatives that lacked region R altogether. This indicates that a small proportion of the ClfA molecules are linked to peptidoglycan very close to the cell surface but that residues greater than 72 are needed to allow sufficient ClfA molecules to span the entire cell wall and to display the biologically active A domain in a form that can participate fully in fibrinogen binding.