Legionella species of different human prevalence were examined with respect to induction of apoptosis in the human monocytic cell line Mono Mac 6 (MM6). L. pneumophila serogroup 1 (Pontiac), L. pneumophila serogroup 1 (Philadelphia-1), L. longbeachae serogroup 1, L. gormanii, L. micdadei and L. steigerwaltii were used to infect MM6 cells. Subsequent induction of apoptosis was investigated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), gel electrophoresis of cellular DNA extracts, and staining of cells with the DNA dye 4', 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). Additionally, the concomitant occurrence of infection and apoptosis was demonstrated by a combination of immunohistochemistry with nuclear DAPI counterstaining. Induction of apoptosis in MM6 cells by a given species of the genus Legionella correlates with their human prevalence rather than with their ability to multiply within this human monocytic cell line. Furthermore, we found that initiation of apoptosis of Mono Mac 6 cells was dependent on direct adherence of the pathogenic bacteria to the host cell and was triggered by extracellular bacteria.