This study aimed to compare phenotypic and genetic characteristics of Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains isolated at the end of the ripening of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and to investigate an important prerequisite of probiotic interest, such as the capability to survive at low pH and in presence of bile salts. The use of API 50 CH, RAPD-PCR analysis and species-specific PCR allowed to ascertain the identity of 63 L. rhamosus strains. Three L. rhamnosus strains isolated from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, L. rhamnosus ATCC 7469(T) and the commercial strain L. GG were assayed to estimate the resistance to various stress factors reproducing in vitro some conditions of the gastro-intestinal environment such as low pH and different amounts of bile salts and acids. The behaviour of almost all the tested strains isolated from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese resulted analogous to that showed by L. GG. (C) 2005 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V.. All rights reserved.