A collection of 267 consecutively isolated Streptococcus anginosus strains was screened for the prevalence of previously described 'motile' strains by hybridization with oligonucleotide probes in a reverse line blot assay. The motile strains represented 101 (37.8%) of the S. anginosus strains. The vast majority of these strains fermented mannitol and raffinose, whereas most other S. anginosus strains did not (P<0.001). Most (83/101) of the motile strains were recovered from the urogenital tract (including five strains from neonatal surveillance cultures) and only a minority (36) of them were associated with infection-related samples (P<0.001). Strains that hybridized with the same oligonucleotide probes as the type strain S. anginosus ATCC 33397T (= NCTC 10713T) were designated ATCC-like strains. They accounted for 74 (27.7%) of the strains examined, were commonly distributed among the different body parts and were significantly more associated with infection-related samples. Three other hybridization patterns were recognized in the reverse line blot assay, ribogroup I (n = 51), ribogroup II (n = 21) and ribogroup III (n = 19). Ribogroup II strains were significantly more frequently recovered from the abdominal cavity and were associated with infection-related samples. Ribogroup I included the majority of the S. anginosus strains that carried Lancefield group C. Comparison of the nearly complete 16S rRNA sequence of two representative strains of each ribogroup revealed that all five ribogroups were closely related (>97% sequence similarities), and that most sequence divergences between the ribogroups occurred in the 1024-1064 bp region of the 16S rRNA gene. The present data confirm the heterogeneity within the S. anginosus species.