We have analyzed structure-sequence relationships in 32 families of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)-binding proteins, to prepare for genomic-scale analyses of this family. Four different FAD-family folds were identified, each containing at least two or more protein families. Three of these families, exemplified by glutathione reductase (GR), ferredoxin reductase (FR), and p-cresol methylhydroxylase (PCMH) were previously defined, and a family represented by pyruvate oxidase (PO) is newly defined. For each of the families, several conserved sequence motifs have been characterized. Several newly recognized sequence motifs are reported here for the PO, GR, and PCMH families. Each FAD fold can be uniquely identified by the presence of distinctive conserved sequence motifs. We also analyzed cofactor properties, some of which are conserved within a family fold while others display variability. Among the conserved properties is cofactor directionality: in some FAD-structural families, the adenine ring of the FAD points toward the FAD-binding domain, whereas in others the isoalloxazine ring points toward this domain. In contrast, the FAD conformation and orientation are conserved in some families while in others it displays some variability. Nevertheless, there are clear correlations among the FAD-family fold, the shape of the pocket, and the FAD conformation. Our general findings are as follows: (a) no single protein ‘pharmacophore’ exists for binding FAD; (b) in every FAD-binding family, the pyrophosphate moiety binds to the most strongly conserved sequence motif, suggesting that pyrophosphate binding is a significant component of molecular recognition; and (c) sequence motifs can identify proteins that bind phosphate-containing ligands.