The development and maturation of E. coli biofilms in flow-chambers was investigated. We found that the presence of transfer constitutive IncF plasmids induced biofilm development forming structures resembling those reported for Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The development occurred in a step-wise process: (i). attachment of cells to the substratum, (ii). clonal growth and microcolony formation, and (iii). differentiation into expanding structures rising 70-100 microm into the water phase. The first two steps were the same in the plasmid-carrying and plasmid-free strains, whereas the third step only occurred in conjugation pilus proficient plasmid-carrying strains. The final shapes of the expanding structures in the mature biofilm seem to be determined by the pilus configuration, as various mutants affected in the processing and activity of the transfer pili displayed differently structured biofilms. We further provide evidence that flagella, type 1 fimbriae, curli and Ag43 are all dispensable for the observed biofilm maturation. In addition, our results indicate that cell-to-cell signalling mediated by autoinducer 2 (AI-2) is not required for differentiation of E. coli within a biofilm community. We suggest on the basis of these results that E. coli K-12 biofilm development and maturation is dependent on cell-cell adhesion factors, which may act as inducers of self-assembly processes that result in differently structured biofilms depending on the adhesive properties on the cell surface.