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Escherichia coli from breastfed infants express more type 1 fimbriae and less P fimbriae than E. coli from bottle-fed infants. In this study we investigated the effect of human milk on production of mRNA for fimA (type 1 fimbriae) and papC (P fimbriae) in E. coli.Production of adhesin gene mRNA was estimated using a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction in E. coli strains under different culture conditions. More type 1 fimbrial mRNA was produced after culture in human milk (P = 0·001) or Luria broth (P = 0·014) than after culture on agar, whereas P-fimbrial mRNA production was similar under all tested growth conditions. When cultured on agar, E. coli strains carrying both the fim and pap operons produced less type 1 and P-fimbrial mRNA than strains that had only the fim or pap operons, respectively (P = 0·03 and 0·056).Environmental regulation of adhesin expression may be influenced by cross-talk between fimbrial operons.