We report the identification of a previously unknown gene, inlA, which is necessary for the gram-positive intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes to invade cultured epithelial cells. The inlA region was localized by transposon mutagenesis, cloned, and sequenced. inlA was introduced into Listeria innocua and shown to confer on this normally noninvasive species the ability to enter cells. Sequencing of inlA predicts an 80 kd protein, internalin. Two-thirds of internalin is made up of two regions of repeats, region A and region B, and the C-terminus of the molecule is similar to that of surface proteins from gram-positive cocci. Internalin has a high content of threonine and serine residues, and the repeat motif of region A has regularly spaced leucine residues. As evidenced by Southern blot analysis, inlA is part of a gene family. One of them is the gene situated directly downstream of inlA, called inlB, which also encodes a leucine-rich repeat protein.