Group B streptococci (GBS) are one of the major causes of invasive neonatal infection. The pathogenesis of early onset disease is a multistep process. Adhesion of GBS to eucaryotic cells is considered to be an important step for the establishment of infection. Subsequent to adhesion, GBS invade cells and give rise to septicemia and meningitis. To investigate passage of GBS across epithelial cell linings we examined the interaction between bacteria and Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. When grown on permeable support, these cells form a polarized epithelial monolayer with an apical-to-basolateral orientation, which more reflects the in vivo situation compared with conventionally cultured cells. Our results show that GBS are translocated in vacuoles from the apical to the basolateral surface of MDCK cells in a temperature-dependent process. The passage of GBS through the cells is selective with only small numbers of bacteria penetrating in the basolateral-to-apical direction. Transcytosis of GBS starts before decrease in transepithelial resistance of the monolayer. These data suggest a mechanism for traversal of GBS over intact chorioamniotic membranes and from alveoli into the circulation of the fetus.