Enteropathogenic (EPEC) and enterohaemorrhagic (EHEC) Escherichia coli isolated from cattle were studied by DNA colony hybridization to subtype their intimin-encoding (eae) gene with probes derived from the variable parts of the eae alpha gene of the human EPEC strain E2348/69, the eae gamma gene of the human O157:H7 EHEC strain ATCC43888, and the eae beta gene of the bovine O26:H- EHEC strain 193, whose eae gene was first cloned and sequenced during this work. The EPEC and EHEC had been isolated from diarrhoeic calves (143 EPEC and 48 EHEC) and from healthy animals at the slaughterhouse (10 EPEC and 34 EHEC). The 191 bovine EPEC and EHEC isolated from diseased calves were positive with the Eae beta probe (55 and 27% respectively) and with the Eae gamma probe (9 and 73% respectively), whereas 52 EPEC (36%) were negative with the Eae alpha, Eae beta, and Eae gamma probes. The results were different for the 44 bovine EPEC and EHEC isolated from healthy cattle at slaughterhouses: most tested positive with the Eae gamma probe (80 and 82% respectively) and the remaining (20 and 18% respectively) with the Eae beta probe. Nine O26 human EHEC tested positive with the Eae beta probe and seven O111 with the Eae gamma probe. The bovine and human EPEC and EHEC belonging to these two serogroups gave identical results: the 18 bovine and human O26 isolates tested positive with the Eae beta probe, whereas the 13 O111 isolates were positive with the Eae gamma probe. In contrast, the isolates belonging to other serogroups (O5, O15, O18, O20, and O118) gave more variable results. The eae beta and eae gamma, but not the eae alpha, variants were thus distributed amongst bovine EPEC and EHEC. The eae beta variant seemed to be more frequently associated with the presence of clinical signs in calves, but one third of EPEC from diarrhoeic calves carried an eae gene variant other than the alpha, beta, or gamma variants. In addition, the use of these gene probes did not enable differentiation between bovine and human EHEC belonging to the same O serogroup.