Passive immunization with the monoclonal antibody 61BG1.3 selectively prevents colonization by Porphyromonas gingivalis in humans (Booth V, Ashley FP, Lehner T. Infect Immun 1996; 64:422-7). The protective MoAb recognizes the beta component of the RI protease of P. gingivalis which is formed by proteolytic processing of a polyprotein precursor termed PrpR1. This subunit is both a haemagglutinin and an antigen which is recognized by sera from patients with periodontitis. In this study the relationship was investigated between a colonization epitope which is recognized by the MoAb 61BG1.3, a haemagglutinating and B cell epitope which are recognized by sera from patients with periodontitis. B cell epitopes were mapped by Western blotting with a series of truncated recombinant polypeptides spanning the adhesion domain within residues 784-1130 of PrpR1 and by ELISA using a panel of synthetic peptides spanning the same sequence. The epitope which is recognized by the protective MoAb was mapped within residues 907-931 of PrpR1, while serum responses of patients were directed predominantly to the adjacent carboxy-terminal sequence within residues 934-1042. The haemagglutinating epitope was mapped to residues 1073-1112. In view of our previous findings that the MoAb 61BG1.3 prevents colonization of P. gingivalis in vivo and inhibits haemagglutination, these two epitopes may be in proximity in the native protein. Active or passive immunization strategies which target the protective or haemagglutinating epitopes of the adhesion domain of PrpR1 may provide a means of preventing infection with P. gingivalis.