The genetic and molecular basis of biofilm formation in staphylococci is multifaceted. The ability to form a biofilm affords at least two properties: the adherence of cells to a surface and accumulation to form multilayered cell clusters. A trademark is the production of the slime substance PIA, a polysaccharide composed of beta-1,6-linked N-acetylglucosamines with partly deacetylated residues, in which the cells are embedded and protected against the host's immune defence and antibiotic treatment. Mutations in the corresponding biosynthesis genes (ica operon) lead to a pleiotropic phenotype; the cells are biofilm and haemagglutination negative, less virulent and less adhesive on hydrophilic surfaces. ica expression is modulated by various environmental conditions, appears to be controlled by SigB and can be turned on and off by insertion sequence (IS) elements. A number of biofilm-negative mutants have been isolated in which polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA) production appears to be unaffected. Two of the characterized mutants are affected in the major autolysin (atlE) and in D-alanine esterification of teichoic acids (dltA). Proteins have been identified that are also involved in biofilm formation, such as the accumulation-associated protein (AAP), the clumping factor A (ClfA), the staphylococcal surface protein (SSP1) and the biofilm-associated protein (Bap). Concepts for the prevention of obstinate polymer-associated infections include the search for new anti-infectives active in biofilms and new biocompatible materials that complicate biofilm formation and the development of vaccines.