The Lactobacillus acidophilus complex includes Lact. acidophilus, Lactobacillus amylovorus, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus gallinarum, Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus johnsonii. The objective of this work was to develop a rapid and definitive DNA sequence-based identification system for unknown isolates of the Lact. acidophilus complex. A approximately = 500 bp region of the 16S rRNA gene, which contained the V1 and V2 variable regions, was amplified from the isolates by the polymerase chain reaction. The sequence of this region of the 16S rRNA gene from the type strains of the Lact. acidophilus complex was sufficiently variable to allow for clear differentiation amongst each of the strains. As an initial step in the characterization of potentially probiotic strains, this technique was successfully used to identify a variety of unknown human intestinal isolates. The approach described here represents a rapid and definitive method for the identification of Lact. acidophilus complex members.