The fimbriae-associated protein 1 (Fap1) is a major adhesin of Streptococcus parasanguinis, a primary colonizer of the oral cavity that plays an important role in the formation of dental plaque. Fap1 is an extracellular adhesive surface fibre belonging to the serine-rich repeat protein (SRRP) family, which plays a central role in the pathogenesis of streptococci and staphylococci. The N-terminal adhesive region of Fap1 (Fap1-NR) is composed of two domains (Fap1-NR α and Fap1-NR β) and is projected away from the bacterial surface via the extensive serine-rich repeat region, for adhesion to the salivary pellicle. The adhesive properties of Fap1 are modulated through a pH switch in which a reduction in pH results in a rearrangement between the Fap1-NR α and Fap1-NR β domains, which assists in the survival of S. parasanguinis in acidic environments. We have solved the structure of Fap1-NR α at pH 5.0 at 3.0Ǻ resolution and reveal how subtle rearrangements of the 3-helix bundle combined with a change in electrostatic potential mediates 'opening' and activation of the adhesive region. Further, we show that pH-dependent changes are critical for biofilm formation and present an atomic model for the inter-Fap1-NR interactions which have been assigned an important role in the biofilm formation. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.