Escherichia coli isolates of serotype O6:K5 are the most common causative agents of cystitis and pyelonephritis in adults. To answer the question, as to whether strains of this particular serotype represent one special clonal group, out of a collection of 34 serotype O6:K5 isolates [Zingler et al. (1990) Zentralbl. Bakteriol Mikrobiol Hyg [A] 274:372-381] 15 strains were selected and analyzed in detail. The flagellar (H) antigen and the outer membrane protein (OMP) pattern were determined. Further serum resistance properties and the genetic presence and expression of other virulence factors, including hemolysin, aerobactin, P fimbriae, S/F1C fimbriae and type 1 fimbriae was evaluated. In addition the XbaI-macrorestriction pattern of ten representative isolates was elaborated and the fimbrial (F) antigen type of the P fimbriae was determined, to obtain the complete O:K:H:F pattern. These analyses could clearly show that the O6:K5 isolates do not represent one clonal group. The XbaI-macrorestriction profiles were heterogeneous and marked differences in the hybridization patterns, using virulence-associated gene probes in Southern hybridization of long-range-separated genomic DNA, were observed among the strains. However, some of strains showed similarities in the genomic profiles, arguing for clonal groupings among the O6:K5 isolates. Interestingly the strains grouped together exhibited the same fimbrial F type that many indicate a coincidence of this phenotypic trait with clonality.