The adhesion of Lactobacillus fermentum 104-R and the variant strain 104-S to porcine gastric squamous epithelium was investigated. An epithelium-specific adhesion was detected for strain 104-S; however, strain 104-R expressed enhanced adhesion capacity to the control surfaces of polystyrene and bovine serum albumin. To characterize the adhesive determinants, the bacterial cells were exposed to various treatments. The adhesion pattern of bacterial cells in buffers of pH values ranging from 2 to 7 was determined. The adhesion of strain 104-S to epithelium was greater in a buffer with a higher pH value. On the other hand, adhesion of strain 104-R to the epithelium was rather unaffected by a change in pH. To the control surfaces of polystyrene or bovine serum albumin, the adhesion of both strains was greatest at pH 2 to 4. Treatment of strain 104-S with metaperiodate did not affect the adhesion to epithelium or polystyrene; however, protease treatment dramatically decreased the adhesion of both strains, thus suggesting that the determinants responsible for the adhesion were proteinaceous. Carbohydrates may be partially involved in the adhesion of 104-R because metaperiodate-treated cells adhered more poorly than control, iodate-treated cells. The adhesion-promoting components are most probably tightly bound to the cell wall, because washing with low-pH buffer (pH 1.2) or sodium dodecyl sulfate had no major effect on the adhesion.