The Lactobacillus flora of the rectal and oral mucosa was sampled from 42 healthy volunteers. Species identification was carried out by numerically comparing API 50CH fermentation patterns with type strains, using an SJ-similarity cut-off level of 79%. For the largest groups, identity was further confirmed by DNA-DNA hybridizations against the type strain of the species. Seventeen lactobacilli clusters were defined, of which most were found both on rectal and oral mucosa. The largest taxa were Lactobacillus plantarum, Lact. rhamnosus and Lact. paracasei ssp. paracasei, which were isolated from 52%, 26% and 17% of the individuals, respectively. Most isolates were tested for their capacity to adhere to the human colonic cell line HT-29 in the absence and presence of methyl-alpha-D-mannoside. Mannose-sensitive adherence to HT-29 cells was encountered in two-thirds of the Lact. plantarum isolates, but infrequently among isolates of other taxa. The results suggest that Lact. plantarum is a major colonizer of the human gastrointestinal mucosa, and that its capacity to adhere to mannose-containing receptors may be of some ecological importance.