Differences were examined among 24 distinct elements mediating VanA-type glycopeptide resistance in enterococci isolated from hospital patients and non-human sources in the UK. The methods used included long-PCR restriction fragment length polymorphism (L-PCR RFLP) analysis and DNA hybridization. All elements had conserved vanRSHAX genes, but variation occurred upstream of vanR and downstream of vanX. Twenty-one VanA elements had significant alterations upstream of vanR in the transposition genes orf1 and orf2: either parts of these genes were absent or they were disrupted by IS1216V or IS3-like insertion sequences. Among VanA elements with alterations downstream of vanX, seven lacked vanY, one lacked both vanY and vanZ, and ten had copies of insertion sequence IS1216V between vanX and vanY. All VanA elements of group D (from geographically and temporally diverse enterococci) were characterized by the presence of an IS1216V/IS3-like/orf1 complex and a point mutation in vanX, both of which were absent from the other 23 groups of VanA elements. This finding is consistent with the dissemination of a stable resistance element. We conclude that L-PCR RFLP analysis, combined with DNA hybridization, merits further development for studying the evolution and epidemiology of VanA resistance elements in enterococci.