The increasing problems encountered with enterococcal nosocomial infections and the intrinsic and acquired resistance of the enterococci to different antimicrobial compounds highlight the need for a rapid identification technique. Enterococcus faecalis is readily identified by biochemical tests, but species differentiation within the Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus gallinarum species groups is less well established. In the present study, 66 strains representing the most prevalent human enterococci were used to develop a PCR-based species-specific identification protocol. Whole-cell protein analysis by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis was used as a reference method for species identification. In addition, the genomic SmaI macro-restriction fragment distribution of all of the strains was examined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Oligonucleotide D11344-primed PCR was as discriminative as whole-cell protein analysis and resulted in more easily interpreted band patterns. This PCR-based technique allowed identification of clinical isolates by visual examination of the DNA profiles obtained. The inability of both methods to discriminate between Enterococcus casseliflavus and Enterococcus flavescens brought into question the species status of E. flavescens. PFGE did not result in species-discriminative DNA bands or band patterns, but proved to be superior for interpretation of interstrain relationships.