The utility of PCR analysis of transfer DNA intergenic spacer length polymorphism (tDNA-ILP) for the identification to the species level of clinically relevant viridans streptococci was evaluated with a collection of reference strains of 15 species of the salivarius, anginosus, mitis and mutans rRNA homology groups. PCR products generated by using fluorescent, outwardly directed, consensus tDNA primers were analysed by electrophoresis on denaturating polyacrylamide gels and by laser fluorescence scanning. Eleven species showed specific and distinct tDNA patterns: Streptococcus cristatus, Streptococcus gordonii, Streptococcus oralis, Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus sanguinis, Streptococcus parasanguinis, Streptococcus anginosus, Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus criceti and Streptococcus ratti. Indistinguishable patterns were obtained among two groups of species: Streptococcus vestibularis and Streptococcus salivarius on the one hand and Streptococcus constellatus and Streptococcus intermedius on the other. S. mitis strains produced heterogeneous patterns that could be separated into three groups: a group containing S. mitis biovar 1 and two S. mitis biovar 2 groups, one of which clustered with S. parasanguinis strains while the other showed patterns unrelated to other species. These results agree in part with protein electrophoretic analysis showing that S. mitis biovar 2 strains belong to several streptococcal taxa. In conclusion, PCR analysis of tDNA-ILP holds promise for rapid identification of viridans streptococci that are difficult to identify by phenotypic tests.