beta-Glycosidase activities present in the human colonic microbiota act on glycosidic plant secondary compounds and xenobiotics entering the colon, with potential health implications for the human host. Information on beta-glycosidases is currently limited to relatively few species of bacteria from the human colonic ecosystem. We therefore screened 40 different bacterial strains that are representative of dominant bacterial groups from human faeces for beta-glucosidase and beta-glucuronidase activity. More than half of the low G+C% Gram-positive firmicutes harboured beta-glucosidase activity, while beta-glucuronidase activity was only found in some firmicutes within clostridial clusters XIVa and IV. Most of the Bifidobacterium spp. and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron carried beta-glucosidase activity. A beta-glucuronidase gene belonging to family 2 glycosyl hydrolases was detected in 10 of the 40 isolates based on degenerate PCR. These included all nine isolates that gave positive assays for beta-glucuronidase activity, suggesting that the degenerate PCR could provide a useful assay for the capacity to produce beta-glucuronidase in the gut community. beta-Glucuronidase activity was induced by growth on d-glucuronic acid, or by addition of 4-nitrophenol-glucuronide, in Roseburia hominis A2-183, while beta-glucosidase activity was induced by 4-nitrophenol-glucopyranoside. Inducibility varied between strains.