Seven strains of Escherichia coli, originating from clinical cases of bovine mastitis, and one Salmonella typhimurium control strain were tested for their ability to adhere to, and invade, bovine mammary epithelial cells (MAC-T cells) in vitro. Four of the seven strains were isolated from cows with chronic intramammary infections with recurrent episodes of clinical mastitis and three strains were isolated from single cases of clinical mastitis. Both adhesion and invasion of all strains were dose and time dependent. The four E. coli strains isolated from recurrent cases of clinical mastitis invaded twice as frequently as and three times faster than the strains isolated from single cases of clinical mastitis. By contrast, there was no difference in the amount or speed of adhesion between the two types of strains of E. coli. Adhesion and invasion curves of E. coli resembled a two-step chain reaction, where invasion was the rate-limiting step. Although adhesion and invasion of E. coli has not been demonstrated in vivo yet, the results of the present study may contribute to an understanding of the pathogenesis of chronic intramammary infections caused by E. coli.