Pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was utilised to compare the genomes of 16 Streptococcus thermophilus cultures from yoghurt, cheese, laban and dahi after digestion with the restriction endonucleases, SfiI, SmaI and BssHII. PFGE profiles could be used for strain identification and were also useful in predicting relatedness of certain strains. Genetic variations between specific morphotypes of a highly proteolytic culture were not detectable by PFGE in this study. Statistical analysis of SmaI restriction patterns enabled the clustering of strains into two groups which corresponded with biochemical properties of the strains examined and suggested that PFGE profiles could be useful in predicting biochemical characteristics. (C) 1998 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.