Strain R0052, isolated from a North American dairy starter culture, was initially identified as Lactobacillus acidophilus based on phenotypic analyses. However, upon sequencing the 16S rRNA gene, it became clear that the isolate was very highly related to Lactobacillus suntoryeus, Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus gallinarum, as similarities ranging from 99.3 to 99.8 % were observed. As an initial screening test to investigate the relatedness of strain R0052 and reference strains of L. suntoryeus, L. helveticus and L. gallinarum, the partial sequences for the genes encoding the alpha subunit of ATP synthase (atpA), RNA polymerase alpha subunit (rpoA), phenylalanyl-tRNA synthase alpha subunit (pheS), the translational elongation factor Tu (tuf), a surface-layer protein (slp) and the Hsp60 chaperonins (groEL) were determined and they revealed high relatedness between all of the strains. The determination of the 16S-23S rRNA internally transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences revealed 98.3-100% similarity between L. suntoryeus and L. helveticus strains. SDS-PAGE of whole-cell proteins did not distinguish between these species. Fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism (FAFLP) could distinguish between these taxa, but they still constituted a single cluster within the L. acidophilus group. Finally, DNA-DNA hybridization experiments between strain R0052 and the type strains of L. helveticus and L. suntoryeus yielded reassociation values above 70% and confirmed that these names are synonyms.