Adherence of Candida albicans to host tissues is a necessary step for maintenance of its commensal status and is likely a necessary step in the pathogenesis of candidiasis. The extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are some of the host tissue and plasma proteins to which C. albicans adheres through adhesins located on the fungal cell surface. To isolate genes encoding ECM adhesins, an assay was developed based on the ability of yeast cells to adhere to magnetic beads coated with the ECM protein fibronectin, type IV collagen, or laminin. A C. albicans genomic library was constructed by cloning XbaI-partially-digested and size-selected fragments into pAUR112, an Escherichia coli-yeast low-copy-number shuttle vector. The C. albicans library was transformed into Saccharomyces cerevisiae YPH 499, and clones capable of adherence were selected by using ECM protein-coated magnetic beads. A plasmid containing an approximately 8-kb insert was isolated from 29 adherent clones. These clones exhibited adherence to all ECM protein-coated magnetic beads and to human buccal epithelial cells. The ALA1 gene (for agglutinin-like adhesin) was localized by subcloning it into a 5-kb XbaI fragment which retained the adherence phenotype in both orientations. The complete DNA sequence of the 5-kb insert was determined, and an open reading frame (ORF) encoding 1,419 amino acid residues was identified. Deletions from the 5' and 3' ends extending into the DNA sequence encoding the 1,419-amino-acid ORF product inactivated the adherence phenotype, suggesting that it is the coding region of the ALA1 gene. A database search identified ALA1 to be similar to the C. albicans ALS1 (for agglutinin-like sequence 1) protein and the S. cerevisiae agglutinin protein (AG alpha1), although the homology at the primary amino acid sequence level is limited to the first half of each of these proteins. ALA1 contains a central domain of six tandem repeats of 36 amino acids. We discuss the significance of various predicted ALA1 structural motifs and their relationships to function in the adherence process.