Bacterial endophytes are ubiquitous to virtually all terrestrial plants. With the increasing appreciation of studies that unravel the mutualistic interactions between plant and microbes, we increasingly value the beneficial functions of endophytes that improve plant growth and development. However, still little is known on the source of established endophytes as well as on how plants select specific microbial communities to establish associations. Here, we used cultivation-dependent and -independent approaches to assess the endophytic bacterrial community of surface-sterilized rice seeds, encompassing two consecutive rice generations. We isolated members of nine bacterial genera. In particular, organisms affiliated with Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Ochrobactrum spp. were isolated from both seed generations. PCR-based denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) of seed-extracted DNA revealed that approximately 45% of the bacterial community from the first seed generation was found in the second generation as well. In addition, we set up a greenhouse experiment to investigate abiotic and biotic factors influencing the endophytic bacterial community structure. PCR-DGGE profiles performed with DNA extracted from different plant parts showed that soil type is a major effector of the bacterial endophytes. Rice plants cultivated in neutral-pH soil favoured the growth of seed-borne Pseudomonas oryzihabitans and Rhizobium radiobacter, whereas Enterobacter-like and Dyella ginsengisoli were dominant in plants cultivated in low-pH soil. The seed-borne Stenotrophomonas maltophilia was the only conspicuous bacterial endophyte found in plants cultivated in both soils. Several members of the endophytic community originating from seeds were observed in the rhizosphere and surrounding soils. Their impact on the soil community is further discussed.