The adherence to eukaryotic cells of Escherichia coli, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and the yeast Candida albicans was studied by light microscopy with an in vitro micromethod involving different cell lines. The method is inexpensive, consumes little time and material, and is reproducible. It was used to show that the gram-positive Cowan I strain of S. aureus, which naturally forms protein A on its surface, adheres in much larger numbers to human lung fibroblasts than the protein A-free Wood 46 strain, the strain of S. epidermidis, and the encapsulated Smith strain. The presence of a capsule on the latter strain apparently prevented its attachment to the fibroblasts. Among the gram-negative species studied, a piliated clinical isolate of N. gonorrhoeae, displaying the opaque colonial phenotype, adhered in larger numbers than another isolate lacking pili and displaying the transparent phenotype. E. coli K12 attached slightly to the cell line, whereas P. aeruginosa adhered to it moderately. One strain of C. albicans tested did not attach in any detectable numbers. No clear correlation between bacterial cell surface hydrophobicity, as evaluated by the hexadecane assay, and adherence to eukaryotic cells could be demonstrated for these microorganisms. With our method, bacterial attachment proceeded best at 37 degrees C and did not require more than 1 h of contact with the cell monolayer. The method described revealed differences in the adherence to eukaryotic cells, not only among species, but also between strains of the same species.