Abstract Vitronectin, a serum and extracellular matrix protein involved in immunological reactions, interacts with Helicobacter pylori strains. Of the 20 H. pylori strains tested three strains bound more than 50% of the vitronectin added, five strains bound 25–40%, nine strains bound 10–20% and three strains bound 5–8% vitronectin. Two strains, one with high- and one with low-binding properties, were selected for further characterization of 125I-vitronectin binding. Binding to the urea-activated 125I-labelled vitronectin was fast, saturable and reversible when an excess of unlabelled vitronectin was added to the bacteria with bound 125I-vitronectin. The binding was heat- and protease-sensitive, suggesting that the binding was mediated by bacterial cell-surface proteins. Since components such as fetuin and orosomucoid but not asialofetuin inhibited the binding, sialic-acid specific proteins, related to H. pylori sialic-acid specific haemagglutinins, were probably involved.