The virulence of different pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) types of Listeria monocytogenes was examined by monitoring their ability to invade Caco-2 cells. Strains belonging to seven different PFGE types originating from both foods and humans were included. No significant differences in invasiveness were detected between strains isolated from humans and those isolated from food. Strains belonging to PFGE type 1 expressed a significantly lower ability to invade cells compared to strains belonging to other PFGE types. Although strains of PFGE type 2 also seemed to invade at a low level, this was not significant in the present study. PFGE types 1 and 2 as well as type 14 are more frequently found in food than the four other PFGE types examined and moreover have a relatively low prevalence in humans compared to their prevalence in food. Thus, the hypothesis that some PFGE types are less virulent than others is supported by this study showing that certain PFGE types of L. monocytogenes commonly found in food are less invasive than others to Caco-2 cells. In contrast to the differences in invasion, identical intracellular growth rates between the different PFGE types were observed. In vivo studies of the actual ability of the strains to invade the liver and spleen of cimetidine-treated rats following an oral dose of 109 L. monocytogenes cells were performed for isolates of PFGE types 1, 2, 5, and 15. After 2 days, equal amounts of bacteria were observed in the liver and spleen of the rats for any of the PFGE types tested.