Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the most prominent colonizer of the respiratory tract of patients with cystic fibrosis, but it is not known why this occurs. P. aeruginosa adheres to mucins from normal individuals, but mucins from cystic fibrosis patients have not been studied. To compare adhesion to mucins from cystic fibrosis with other mucins, we prepared highly glycosylated mucin glycopeptides from cystic fibrosis and chronic bronchitis patients by ion-exchange and gel-filtration chromatography and measured the adhesion of P. aeruginosa 1244 to these glycopeptides. We found (i) that the most mucinlike glycopeptides from P. aeruginosa-infected cystic fibrosis sputa showed less bacterial adhesion than did the corresponding bronchitis samples, (ii) that the most adhesive activity in cystic fibrosis samples came from a fraction that contains O and N glycopeptides and may be in part a degradation product of P. aeruginosa infection, and (iii) that highly glycosylated glycopeptides of the most acidic species (sialylated and sulfated) showed no adhesion at all. A single cystic fibrosis sample not infected by P. aeruginosa showed better binding in the adhesion-positive fractions than did the infected sputa. These studies suggest that cystic fibrosis mucins may be altered after infection is established, resulting in less binding to some fragments. However, since the clinical picture shows heavy mucus colonization, other receptors, such as cellular glycolipids which have been shed into mucus, may be contributing to this colonization.