More than 75% of neonates with Citrobacter diversus meningitis develop brain abscesses. Interaction of C. diversus strains with HEp-2 and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) was studied to examine mechanisms related to brain abscess formation. Two of 9 strains invaded HEp-2 cells and 0 of 6 invaded HUVEC better than the others. C. diversus survived at least 20 h within HEp-2 cells (in decreasing numbers). Adhesion to HEp-2 cells was increased in 3 of 4 strains expressing type 1 fimbriae, but this did not correlate with increased invasion. Inhibition of RNA or protein synthesis blocked invasion but not adhesion. Thus, invasion requires ongoing protein synthesis, and adhesion to and invasion of HEp-2 cells by type-1-fimbriated strains are independent steps. Invasion was inhibited by cytochalasin D. A 32-kDa protein found in cerebrospinal fluid isolates of C. diversus was not related to invasion of either cell line. Ability to invade HEp-2 cells was not increased among strains isolated from central nervous system sources.