Salmonella enteritidis expresses flagella and several finely regulated fimbriae, including SEF14, SEF17 and SEF21 (type 1). A panel of mutants was prepared in three strains of S. enteritidis to elucidate the role of these surface appendages in the association with and invasion of cultured epithelial cells. In all assays, the naturally occurring regulatory-defective strain 27655R associated with tissue culture cells significantly more than wild-type progenitor strains LA5 and S1400/94. Compared with wild-type strains, SEF14 mutants had no effect on association and invasion, whereas SEF17, SEF21 and aflagellate mutants showed significant reductions in both processes. Histological examination suggested a role for SEF17 in localized, aggregative adherence, which could be specifically blocked by anti-SEF17 sera and purified SEF17 fimbriae. SEF21-mediated association was neutralized by mannose and a specific monoclonal antibody, although to observe enhanced association it was necessary for the bacteria to be in fimbriate phase prior to infection. Additionally, aflagellate mutants associated and invaded less than motile bacteria. This study demonstrated the potential for multifactorial association and invasion of epithelial cells which involved SEF17 and SEF21 fimbriae, and flagella-mediated motility.