A method of insertional mutagenesis for naturally transformable organisms has been adapted from Haemophilus influenzae and applied to the study of the pathogenesis of Campylobacter jejuni. A series of kanamycin-resistant insertional mutants of C. jejuni 81-176 has been generated and screened for loss of ability to invade INT407 cells. Eight noninvasive mutants were identified which showed 18-200-fold reductions in the level of invasion compared with the parent. Three of these eight show defects in motility, and five are fully motile. The three mutants with motility defects were further characterized to evaluate the method. One mutant, K2-32, which is non-adherent and non-invasive, has an insertion of the kanamycin-resistance cassette into the flaA flagellin gene and has greatly reduced motility and a truncated flagellar filament typical of flaA mutants. The adherent non-invasive mutants K2-37 and K2-55 are phenotypically paralysed, i.e. they have a full-length flagellar filament but are non-motile. All three mutants show an aberration in flagellar structure at the point at which the filament attaches to the cell. Mutants K2-37 and K2-55 represent overlapping deletions affecting the same gene, termed pflA (paralysed flagella). This gene encodes a predicted protein of 788 amino acid residues and a molecular weight of 90,977 with no significant homology to known proteins. Site-specific insertional mutants into this open reading frame result in the same paralysed flagellar phenotype and the same invasion defects as the original mutants. The differences in adherence between the two classes of flagellar mutant suggest that flagellin can serve as a secondary adhesion, although other adhesins mediate a motility-dependent internalization process. Characterization of the mutants at the molecular level and in animal models should further contribute to our understanding of the pathogenicity of these organisms.