We have purified and characterized an oligopeptide binding protein released from the periplasm of Escherichia coli W by mild osmotic shock. The purified protein was greater than 97% homogeneous as determined by either sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (Mr = 60,000) or isoelectric focusing (pI = 5.95). The binding protein has a Stokes radius of 30 A and a sedimentation coefficient (s(0)20,w) of 4.6 S. Based on these hydrodynamic studies, the native protein has a molecular weight of 56,000. The tripeptide, Ala-Phe-[3H]Gly, which is transported via the shock-sensitive sensitive oligopeptide permease, binds to the purified protein in dilute solution with a Kd of 0.1 microM and a stoichiometry of approximately 1 to 1. Results from this study support the hypothesis that this periplasmic oligopeptide binding protein functions in the initial recognition of peptide substrates for the oligopeptide permease system.