The role of type 1 fimbriae in the mannose-sensitive attachment of Escherichia coli to eucaryotic cells was investigated by deletion mutation analysis of a recombinant plasmid, pSH2, carrying the genetic information for the synthesis and expression of functional type 1 fimbriae. A mutant, pUT2002, containing a deletion remote from the structural gene encoding the 17-kilodalton subunit protein of type 1 fimbriae failed to agglutinate guinea pig erythrocytes even though the bacteria expressed fimbriae morphologically and antigenically indistinguishable from those produced by the intact recombinant plasmid. Fimbriae isolated from pUT2002 failed to agglutinate guinea pig erythrocytes, but reacted with a monoclonal antibody specific for quaternary structural determinants of type 1 fimbriae. Moreover, the dissociated fimbrial subunits from this mutant were indistinguishable from normal fimbriae by their migration during electrophoresis in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels, by their reactivity with a monoclonal antibody directed against a subunit-specific epitope, and in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays with monospecific antisera. These results indicate that the adhesive functions in type 1 fimbriae are dependent on a factor(s) encoded by a gene other than those required for synthesis, assembly, and expression of the structural 17-kilodalton subunit.