Escherichia coli colonizes the gastrointestinal tract of humans; however, little is known about the features of commensal strains. This study investigated whether expression of the biofilm extracellular matrix components cellulose and curli fimbriae is found among commensal isolates. Fifty-two E. coli strains were isolated from faecal samples and, as a control, 24 strains from urinary tract infections were also used. Faecal isolates were characterized by serotyping and phylogenetically grouped by PCR. The genotype was determined by PFGE and the presence of virulence factors was assessed. Co-expression of cellulose and curli fimbriae at 28 degrees C and 37 degrees C was typical for faecal isolates, while urinary tract infection strains typically expressed the extracellular matrix components at 28 degrees C only. Knockout studies in a representative faecal isolate revealed that the response regulator CsgD regulated cellulose and curli fimbriae, as found previously in Salmonella enterica. In contrast to S. enterica, at 37 degrees C pellicle formation occurred in the absence of cellulose and curli fimbriae. The gastrointestinal tract represents a source of biofilm-forming bacteria, which can spread to susceptible sites.