Background. Streptococcus parasanguinis is a primary colonizer of human tooth surfaces and plays an important role in dental plaque formation. Bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation are mediated by long peritrichous fimbriae that are composed of a 200 kDa serine rich glycoprotein named Fap1 (fimbriae-associated protein). Glycosylation and biogenesis of Fap1 are modulated by a gene cluster downstream of the fap1 locus. A gene encoding a glycosylation-associated protein, Gap3, was found to be important for Fap1 glycosylation, long fimbrial formation and Fap1-mediated biofilm formation. Results. Deletion and site-directed mutagenesis were employed to dissect the regions within Gap3 that were important for its function in Fap1 glycosylation and biogenesis. A deletion of 6 consecutive amino acids, PDLPIL, eliminated the production of the mature 200 kDa Fap1 protein and gave rise instead to a 470 kDa Fap1 intermediate that was only partially glycosylated. Site-directed mutagenesis of the 6 amino acids revealed that only three of these amino acids were required. Mutants in these amino acids (L64R, P65R and L67T) produced the premature 470 kDa Fap1 intermediate. Mutants in the remaining amino acids produced the mature form of Fap1. Cell surface expression of the Fap1 precursor among L64R, P65R and L67T mutants was reduced to levels consistent with that of a gap3 insertional mutant. Electron micrographs showed that these 3 mutants lost their long peritrichous fimbriae. Furthermore, their in vitro adhesion ability to saliva-coated hydroxylapatite (SHA) was inhibited. Conclusion. Our data suggest that 3 highly conserved, hydrophobic residues L64, P65 and L67 in Gap3 are essential for Gap3 function and are important for complete glycosylation of Fap1, fimbrial formation and bacterial adhesion. © 2008 Peng et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.